Do you have too much discipline? Writing and OCD.

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This post is written especially for my dear Daily Prompts subscribers.

A writer asked me what to do about writing prompts when they gather in his inbox every week. He works long days; his writing time is mostly on weekends.

He wrote:

"Like everything else in my OCD world, everything that was once glittery and enterprising becomes a leaden chore. Before your 10-minute writing prompts fall into this familiar trap, I felt the need to ask your advice – I may not be alone.  

By letting them "accumulate," [am I] feeling the weight of the prompts, the pressure to complete them as if I'm being graded by an invisible parent? Or is each one like the train? If you miss one, it's gone – but another will come by soon enough. What do you think?"

Such a great question.

Some writers have to learn how to cultivate discipline – the daily prompts help with this, obviously. But for writers who have lots and lots of discipline – for those of us who can be dogged and unforgiving about the way we approach daily tasks – I'd like to look at writing practice in a different way.


The daily prompts are, indeed, like a train. They come every day. If you miss one, you do not have to check it off your list before catching another one.

In fact – and I'm revealing this secret only because I believe it may help with OCD tendencies – there are a finite number of prompts. They will repeat every 3 years. I wrote a new one every day for 3 years, and then I thought: that's probably enough.

I schedule the prompts to go out daily, but if you miss one, not only will another fill its place, you'll have a second chance to get it later. More important: you could write the same prompt every single day and you'd come up with something new each time.

It's the practice that counts, not the prompt.

The prompt is only there to trigger your practice, however that looks for you.

There's nothing wrong with writing for an hour on Saturday instead of 10 minutes every day. Yes, it's worthwhile. I actually like the 5-6 prompts in one day habit. It could be an even more fierce habit than 10 minutes a day, depending on your state of mind. It all depends on your state of mind.

As long as you're connecting with your creative, receptive state of mind as you write, your writing is worthwhile. However long you do it, however often you can manage it in your life. It's the practice that counts. It's your state of mind that counts. Only you can answer this honestly: are you using your overactive and bossy left brain to support your right brain by making you write the prompts, or is it acting more like a dictator and taking the gentleness and uncertainty and playfulness away from your creative process? 

Writers, pay attention to this. You don't want to start banging your daily prompts down only because you must. check. prompt. off. list. This is a writing practice – not a chore. Occasionally remind yourself – if you're the dogged type – that your writing practice is not really about being productive.

I do want to provoke a bit of that – the accountability part is important for any creative endeavour, or we just won't do it – but please take time to enjoy the writing.

I changed the way I sent out writing prompts because the way I used to do it was becoming less glittery and more to-do for me. I was becoming dogged and unforgiving, and it interfered with the curiosity and play that started the project. This doggedness creeps into my fiction writing (and revision!) more often than I'd like to admit. I have to keep reminding myself that the heart of why I do what I do is because I love it.

Bottom line: do whatever you need to do to keep your writing habit glittery. Put a fence around it. Protect the sparkle. It's not the prompts that matter: it's the sparkle.

Yes?

xo,

Sarah” width=   

Dispatch from Portland, Oregon.
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10 comments

Oh my gosh...THANK YOU. I love the prompts but there are days (and weeks) where they accumulate in my inbox like accusations. I needed this. :)
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Natasha Gauthier

Great post! This has been bugging me, too. Thanks so much for the words of wisdom. I feel much more positive and grounded. N
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I don't always write everyday; sometimes I also write an hour a week, or so. I have a composition book, one of the black and white marble things I picked up at the dollar store. In it, I write the prompt every day, leaving the backside of the page blank. When I draw a blank on any of my projects I should be working on, I take the notebook to my screen porch, with a cup of coffee, possibly a snack, and my favorite pen. There I may write in the notebook for an hour, sometimes two. Other times when I draw a blank, I may think of one of the scenes, or stories I've written in the notebook and pull it out and expand it into the PC. Or I may go back and read the scenes or stories or lists for inspiration. I love the prompts, no matter how I get them. Thanks.
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Lindsey Noel

I can't thank you enough for this post. Somehow you always manage to read my mind and send exactly what I need. Thanks for the reminder to protect the sparkle in my writing practice, to be kind to myself, and to write because I love it.
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Rebecca Villarreal

Sarah--during my meditation this morning, my inner voice said "Go read some Sarah Salecky" -- so I read your other post about the active mind after your trip to Indiana...and I walked to the beach and stood in the water and wrote. Today's post affirms what I know about your prompts, which I often read just to make myself giggle and remember to wonder at the world. I write and connect regularly with my creative self thanks in large part to your prompts appearing in my inbox. My only commitment is to read them, sometimes to share them, then to let the writing flow when it flows within the rigors of my daily life. And so it is a gift, and for that I say THANK YOU!
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Thanks for the post - a good reminder to just write. So easy to get bogged down in the to-do list. As for the gmail thing - just thought I'd point out that it is not a bad change. I actually find it useful - the tabs are easily reorganized. I've always disliked gmail for its.... well, sloppiness I guess, but this change actually makes me think I could use it as a primary email. Before, your emails would get lost in all the noise from other various blogs I follow. Now I can put you in my primary box and find you right away! ;) Thanks for all you do ~
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What a lovely post! Thank you, Sarah!
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elizabeth barnes

What a fantastic idea! To write the prompts into a notebook and leave space to write when the spirit moves you, especially if it's not daily, as it is(n't?) in my case--not daily. That way I can carry the book with me and when I'm in the mood I can write whenever or wherever I find myself. (However, just another thing to carry around in my backpack.) Thanks for the idea.
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Sarah Selecky

Oh, thank you everybody! I'm *so* glad this touched upon something that you needed to hear right now. xo S
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Sarah Selecky

Thanks, Amy! My gmail still hasn't changed, so I haven't been able to try the new version yet. But I love that it's more organized - woot! Okay, gmail, I'm ready! Hit me!
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