Throughout November, as I was working on my novel, people commented on the discipline required to write 50,000 words in one month. I agree. It does take discipline to write an average of 1,667 words every day for thirty days.
Fortunately, discipline appeals to me. Personality-wise, I am someone who is comfortable with things being open-ended, in process, which can be somewhat undisciplined. So, I love things that add structure to my life, that give me a framework for actually finishing something.
When my adult faith journey was just beginning, books on discipline attracted me more than any other spiritual books. Fortunately, lots of spiritual writers—both ancient and modern—are pro-discipline, so it was easy to find writings to satisfy my craving and to affirm that discipline matters.
For as long as I can remember, at least some parts of my life have been quite disciplined. Keeping a journal is a discipline I developed early on and have maintained throughout my life. Attending Mass regularly, even daily for most of my adult life, and going on annual retreats are other disciplines. Eating well and exercising are two more.
Almost twenty years ago, three friends and I started a faith-sharing group, and we each committed to praying an hour a day. Although the group no longer exists, I still set aside that hour every morning and show up for prayer.
I used to run for exercise and then switched to walking. When we got Detroit, I started walking her every morning and every evening. Even though we now have a yard for her to play in and get enough exercise, we still take our walks. Through rain, snow, sleet, heat or cold, we walk. In Philadelphia, we walked through hurricanes. Only thunderstorms keep us inside (although the recent very cold temperatures in Michigan have shortened our walks, and I am getting more exercise by shoveling snow).
Some people, commenting on my disciplines, have said they think discipline would be too restrictive for them, but I find the structures created by my disciplines somehow enable me to be freer. It is one of those paradoxes of life.
Disciplines do require sacrifice. Writing my novel in November meant limiting social activities. Making time for prayer and exercise every morning means I don’t get to sleep in. I have to use vacation time to go on retreat. A healthy diet means limited junk food, etc.
But I don’t mind these sacrifices because I think that practicing discipline has given me the gift of fortitude, and fortitude enabled me to make the commitment to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days and to complete the task.