Monday, September 29, 2014

The "D" Word Nobody Likes

Ready for a crucial morsel of food for thought?

In his classic book The Essentials of Screenwriting, UCLA professor and Screenwriting Chairman Richard Walter states...

"Like all creative expression, writing depends not upon talent alone but also discipline. Each is rare all by itself. The two in tandem, however, are exponentially rarer still. Copious talent and paltry discipline will not carry a writer nearly so far as the converse combination" [my underlining for emphasis].

You may already be thinking, "So what? I'm not a screenwriter." However, chances are good that you have some goals, or at least dreams. The point is, no matter what your personal dream, if you cannot muster the self-discipline to take regular, tiny steps toward that dream, you may as well kiss it goodbye.

That sounds like a negative conclusion, but it can actually be liberating if you aspire to something you're not cut out for. Maybe you once pictured yourself playing major-league ball, or competing in the Olympics but always preferred doing something else instead of practicing. Maybe you aspired to political office, but preferred to spend your allotted number of daily minutes in other pursuits. Maybe you picture yourself tending a lush, beautiful garden, but prefer painting pictures. Since most people find time to do what they really truly want to do (even if that is simply watching TV), it's always possible that you're not cut out for major-league ball, or Congress, or the Olympics, gardening, or whatever.

On the other hand, if what you just read irritates a little and you honestly believe you really have the talent but simply never buckled down to develop the discipline--then here's your reminder. Richard Walter proceeds to say, "Neither can writers have inspiration unwillingly thrust upon them; they must discover motivation within themselves."

Talent, Motivation, Discipline. What a dynamic trio! But no matter what your field of endeavor, without discipline to take regular baby steps toward the goal, having the other two is pointless.

Thanks for listening in while I've preached this reminder to myself today!

Your turn. Do you have tricks or tips about how you developed the stick-to-it-iveness to pursue a dream? Or maybe you realized the dream on your horizon was the wrong one and you switched targets? We'd love to hear from you!


  1. Amen, without discipline, NOTHING is possible, but with it, the sky truly is the limit. And I'm an AF veteran, I know sky! LOL This is so spot on, Rick. We need discipline and perseverance to realize our dreams!

  2. Thanks Linda. This is one of those themes I need to preach to myself over and over. It's so easy to get distracted, or to fritter away minutes (did someone say, "Facebook"?) that I could put to constructive use elsewhere. Even 15 or 20 minutes--1 page a day--can create a book-length manuscript in less than a year. But only when I discipline myself to carve out that time.