Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bertrand on Making It Matter

Over at The Page Has Turned, J. Mark Bertrand (Back on Murder) talks about how finally cemented the daily discipline of writing after years of struggling:
Same thing happened to me in graduate school. Here I was in the mecca of craft, with a coveted spot at a top creative writing program, but I found myself writing much less than I had before. ...

Later, after a three year hiatus, I returned and finished my degree. In the meantime I’d started writing for myself again, and cared more about the prose than I did about class participation. All the theory became real, because I needed it for my work. ...

Which leads me to wonder whether, faced with repeated failure trying to maintain any kind of discipline, if instead of redoubling your effort (failing again, only with more at stake) it wouldn’t be wiser to look for the underlying issue. Soldiers in barracks clean their weapons for drill, and have to be ridden by superiors even to do that. Soldiers in battle keep them clean so they’ll keep firing. All that changed was the sense of necessity. Things that don’t matter don’t keep getting done. Things that do become second nature. The key to any discipline, I suppose, is figuring how to make it matter.
Read the whole thing. In one way, Bertrand's counsel is almost prophetic: After all, those who can't figure "how to make it matter" ultimately won't have a reason to put pen to paper, no matter how much short-term discipline they manage to drub up.

(Picture: CC 2010 by Jonathan Reyes)

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