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Page Up Ep #7: Finding the Discipline to Write a Book


In this episode you’ll see why “White Knuckling” it will only get you so far when it comes to authorship. If you want to write a book that matters you have 2 choices. You can write from a place of fear and frustration or you can write from joy and ease. I always say I don’t care if you are joyful and at ease when you are writing a book, but I know when you are, when you book is flowing through you, that your book will make a much bigger impact in the world. Discipline vs. Author Mojo is a choice you get to make and there are no right or wrong answers but knowing you get to decide if the writing process is fun or not is about as empowering as it gets.

In this episode you will learn:

  • What it means to focus your author mojo
  • Why will-power fails every time
  • The difference between author mojo and discipline
  • How to get your butt in the chair writing
  • A simple technique for getting your writing routine rocking
  • The difference between good discipline as a writer and author mojo
  • The danger of treating your book like a crash diet
  • What “white knuckling” your book looks and feels like
  • How to create a safe space for your Inner Author to come out and play
  • What are the elements of your author mojo and how can you focus each aspect of it

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Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to page up with Dr. Angela Lauria, Episode Seven, finding the discipline to write a book

Welcome to Page Up a podcast for authors and transformation, featuring advice on the basic fundamentals and overcoming writer’s block to advance techniques for publishing and marketing nonfiction books. Now, get ready to press page up on your book with your host, best selling author and publisher, Dr. Angela Lauria.


Well hey everybody and welcome to page up. In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about finding the discipline to write a book. So most people who write books think that to do that you have to be very disciplined and they have this vision. I will often hear people talk about forcing their button, the chair being really focused and, you know, making time in their schedule. And the idea is that this discipline seems to come from the outside that it is granted, or established by some outside authority and that you need to follow the orders of whoever this boss is of you in this case, and that works. So that’s the way I wrote most of my papers in school. It wasn’t because I was desperate to discuss how Oedipus and Hamlet had similar relationships with their mothers it was that the paper was due on Monday and so I had the discipline over the weekend before or the week before to get that paper written. And that’s fine, that’s fine for school. It’s fine for certain types of books. But for books that truly make a difference, white knuckling will only get you so far. forcing your butt in the chair, making bargains with yourself and trying to talk yourself into the commitment that you’ve already made to yourself and keeping it.


The the idea that struggle is part of the writing process is an idea that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years. There’s a lot of commitment to the idea that writing is a struggle. But the truth is that you can choose to write from a place of fear and frustration. Or you can choose to write from a place of joy and ease. What I tell my clients is, actually don’t care if you’re joyful and at ease when you write a book. It’s just that I know when you are, that means your book is flowing through you and that your book will make a much bigger impact. packed in the world, I’m on your reader and in the lives of people that you want to change. And so instead of thinking about your commitment to your writing as discipline or force, my advice to my clients is to focus on their author Mojo. So that is what we are really going to be talking about today. The true source of the discipline to write your book comes from your inner author. It comes from an inner authority, not an outer authority. And yes, you can choose to white knuckle, your book, we’ll we’ll talk about that as well. And when the rubber hits the road and you make a public commitment, or you have a deadline for a publisher for some reason, there are some ways that you can white knuckle it. You can find that discipline a little bit. Easier Than you may be doing it now.


Um, but what I really want to start with is what it means to focus your author Mojo because when you can do this, you will find that it is less about discipline and it’s more about what happens naturally and easily for you as a writer. So if you think about it, I’m going to guess that for most people brushing your teeth every day, you probably don’t have to beat yourself into it. And probably just wake your wake up in the morning and brush your teeth and before bed, it feels like a good idea to brush your teeth. That’s just part of your I don’t know your inner hygenist Mojo. It’s just what feels right to you. And so let’s talk about that. There are three different things that I want you to think about and then I’m giving you some exercises as well. So the first aspect of focusing your author Mojo is figuring out Where you are most effective as a writer? What are the environmental circumstances? People have said some some of my authors have find their author Mojo outside and they write outside. Some people like to be at their desk with their door shut, and in a room with natural light. Some people write on the couch or in their bed. And so were physically when you’ve written in the past blog posts or articles or papers for class, where have you been most effective? Maybe you have a home office and that seems like the place that you should have the discipline to write your book. What I want to encourage you for for today and for this exercise is to put away where you should write your book, and think about where you have been mostly productive as a writer in the past. So maybe it’s been in a coffee shop, maybe you want it to be in a coffee shop, but it hasn’t been. Think about when you have gotten the most words written with the most ease Where were you and just make a list of those places in your living room and in your bedroom, in your office at a friend’s house, I went through a period. This is actually a true story. I had great friends who did not have Wi Fi in their house. They had an internet connection, but it was a hard line, which is fantastic. And they had a basement that every day when I was writing my PhD dissertation, I would drive halfway across town and I would work in their basement because I was very productive there. I found that out sort of by accident when I was dog sitting one weekend. Their basement was very cool. It was a hot summer in DC and There was no way that I could get on the internet without a concerted effort. And so I found that I was very productive in that environment. But the chair that they had in the basement was not super comfortable for me that was messing with my author Mojo. So I actually had a super comfortable bungee cord chair in my home office, and I threw that in my hatchback Prius, and I actually wrote my dissertation on my chair that I brought to their basement. So let’s try and negotiate your offer Mojo into liking a room or liking a chair.


But let’s look at all of those environmental impacts that are most effective for you. So here’s some things to look at is is there a certain ritual that helps you in that environment. So I have a very specific mug that says for your inner author, and it has a gorgeous design that one of my former art directors and Al Gore did for me. And I love that mug, I have a particular type of tea that I like. And when it is time for me to write, that mug comes out and that tea comes out.


And while I like to write in my office, I don’t like to have other officee things around. And so I clear my desktop when I’m writing of anything that doesn’t have to do with my book. So how can you create a space this might be a simple matter of getting a moving box or two and moving for your writing times moving your stuff, keeping your stuff in boxes, and then moving those boxes out of the room. It could mean investing in a chair. It could mean Buying a special mug with a unicorn on it from Etsy that reminds you of some of your favorite things. So do an environmental assessment. I keep some things near me when I’m writing. I like having chapstick. I like having hand cream. I like one of the things that I do when I’m writing is I actually switch locations pretty frequently. And so I have three different power cords for my computer. So I can switch rooms without having to move power cords around. That’s my own little kooky thing. But how can you spoil your inner author here and really set him or her up to be maximally effective in the environment? Okay, next question for you is when are you most effective. Now, I would love to be most effective between nine and three when my child is at school. That would be amazing. But that is not for me my most effective writing time I use, I use actually nine to 11 each day to do non non writing things at all. So, if I need to go to the post office, if I need to run any errands if I need to get my haircut, I am always doing that between nine and 11. Because my writing skills before noon are not impressive to say the least. I never schedule writing before noon, because i will just be a struggle. It’ll take me twice as long. I’ll have half the usable words in twice the time. And it’s no fun. And I know that I’m not going to write my most impactful stuff that way. So actually, the way that I work best is late at night often after midnight and after a nap. So I will often take a two to four hour nap around seven, eight or 9pm and wake up around midnight and write until about four or five in the morning, and then I sleep in. And I know that’s crazy. But I also know that that’s what my inner author likes. That’s when my most creative moments happen. And so I have set her up, especially when I’m working on a book or a project, I set myself up so that it’s most likely that my inner author will come out and play and that I’ll be writing from a place of joy and ease. So what time are you most effective? A lot of my former clients, maybe even my current clients, a lot of my former clients are morning people. And they find if they set the alarm an hour early, and get the writing out of out of the way, you know before the clock strikes nine They are maximally effective. I think that’s fantastic. So what time of day? Are you most effective? That’s our second question for today. And our third question for today is for how long should you be writing? What is your What is your author Mojo and the length of time you should be writing. So I have one client who wrote her entire book in 15 minute chunks. So what she found Was she got the most word count the most usable word count and was happiest writing in 15 minute chunks. So we broke her book up into 200 word sections, which is about what she would write in 15 minutes. She would set a timer three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday from nine to 915. And she knew the 200 words she had to write in that 15 minute time block. Now it took her a year or two finish her book. But she did in fact finish it writing mostly in 15 minute chunks. And the reason she did that was able to accomplish that is her inner author loved it. Her inner author felt so safe that she wasn’t going to be forced and tortured and disciplined into six hour writing sessions. It just so happened she has a medical condition that made it very difficult to sit. And she had a story in her head that in order to get her book written, she was going to have to be very physically uncomfortable. So I’m going to ask you, you, um, do you like to Steven pressfield and War of Art talks about bursting or plotting. So does an hour of writing usually yield you the best results? Or would you like to take eight or 10 hours and chunk out a whole day? Now this one I’m going to give you an exercise because I really Like you to test this out, I’d like you to write for an hour on a topic that you know something about something that could hopefully be a blog post and write for an hour in the location, you think that you’ll be most effective. And at the time of day, you think you’ll be most effective and ripe for an hour and check your word count. And then I want you to do an edit of that and see how many of those words were usable? How many get edited out? And how many do you see you might have in an hour, let’s say 1000 words, and there might be 800 usable words, right? Okay, the next thing that I want you to do is to do another writing assignment for whatever sounds better to you two hours, or four hours or 15 minutes, but a significantly different length of time and make sure you Set the stop at any time. So even if you want to keep writing stop yourself here and look at that usable word count as well back that into let’s say you did 15 minutes, and you got 800. And you got 800 usable words that’s 200 every 15 minutes. And so what’s your rate? Let’s see, if you did four hours, it would be 3200 words, do you get more or less than a longer or shorter chunk of time? Now, this is important to know and you can look back to other projects you’ve had and ask yourself where you’re most productive. 


Many people will think they’re more productive in longer periods of time, but their usable word count goes down. And that is worth knowing because there is a power and there isn’t a discipline here in having end times. So I want to talk a little bit about why in this test, having that in time is so important. So I need to go pick my child up from school every day at 5pm. And something I started to notice is that between 430 and 5pm, I was extremely productive. In fact, I would often get almost the whole day’s work done in that half hour chunk. So what was happening there? Well, because I knew I was running out of time, I was able to really focus intently. Whereas at the beginning of the day, let’s say at 9am, when I felt like I had all the time in the world, it was very difficult to bring my author Mojo or bring my discipline to the table. And so by setting an end time, and setting a word count goal for those sessions, I often recommend 1000 words an hour. That’s a great rate that you should figure out what’s your hourly word count. And give yourself an hour to write 1000 words, or give yourself 15 minutes to write 200 words, but make sure you have an end time. And I think what you’ll see especially if you give yourself a 15 minute warning is that most of your productivity will happen in the second half or even the second quarter of that time. So don’t just give yourself four hours to write and hope that you write as much as possible. Give yourself four hours to write and 4000 words and check in at the three hour mark as to how close you are to those 4000 words. And very often having rewards set up and it could be something as simple as a snack sized Snickers bar that you won’t let yourself have until you hit that 4000 word and for our goal. So we’ll Power and trying to force yourself into writing won’t work. But listening to when you are naturally inclined or most likely to be inclined to writing is a big step. But what happens if you’re in the perfect location and it’s the perfect time of day and you’ve got two hours carved out and you have a Snickers bar waiting for you at the end of those two hours, but writing isn’t happening? Well, here is a simple technique for how to get your writing routine rocking. What I recommend to people is to simply decide to white knuckle it. So what I mean by that is to make a conscious decision that while my inner author isn’t coming out, I’ve got two hours. I have 2000 words I need to get done. And I’m going to do this anyway. I’m going to turn On my left brain, the girl who got the papers done for school, I’m going to pretend there’s a professor waiting for this if there isn’t a professor waiting for this, and I’m just going to do this anyway. And it might be Terrible. Terrible is actually fine. I know that’s scary as a writer to give yourself permission to write something terrible. But sometimes great things show up. And if they don’t, you can throw them out and you can edit them or rewrite them. The reason to do this is to really create for you an environment where you are going to keep your promises to yourself, that is part of what makes your inner author feel safe. And so if you keep your commitment to writing, if you decide I’m just going to white knuckle it, very often what happens is you will get into Visit from the muse, your inner author will come out to play because you have honored yourself by keeping that commitment. And I not only am I not going to say this doesn’t happen every time, but I can tell you specifically, if you try to make it happen if you try and trick your inner author into coming out to play, it absolutely will not happen. Okay? So this is a hack, but it’s not a hack that works on deception. You really need to come from a pure place of the person who’s written a whole bunch of paper you had to write reports for work. There was a PowerPoint presentation that was due at 9am tomorrow morning, and somehow you got it done. Pretending in this case that there is an outside authority. There is a commitment that you have made to getting this writing done and doing it even If it’s not your most inspired work that may bring your inner outer out to play as long as you’re not trying to manipulate him or her into it. So I often think of our inner authors as this seven or eight year old kid and you as the as the leader of this inner author, you’re inviting your inner author out for a for a playdate, and there are a bunch of features of a playdate. If you’re a parent, you’ll know some of this the playdate has to happen somewhere. Right? It’s usually at one of the kids houses or it’s at Chuck E cheeses or it’s at a library or a bowling alley to have to happen somewhere. There has to be a beginning and an end time. And there have to be safety precautions, right. You’re not going to send your kids out to play in a disused landmine. field. So that’s the purpose of your author Mojo is to create those safe conditions, that safe environment where your inner author could come out to play. Now, sometimes people don’t show up for playdates, sometimes people get sick, right things can happen. And so we need to be gentle and forgiving with our inner author because he or she is a very sensitive little soul. And so you’re not going to be mad at a kid who doesn’t show up to a playdate because his mom’s car broke down. And that’s how you want to treat these moments when your inner author doesn’t come out to play. Cool. That’s all good. We got a backup plan. We could play a little Minecraft on our own right there are other things that we can do to make these next two hours fun. If you go ahead and do that, you might be surprised the mom gets a jump on her car. And the inner author shows up, put your your playdate shows up. But you can’t go on expecting that to happen. Um, that is that’s a little bit of a of a, of a trick that just doesn’t hold up.


So white knuckling can work, it feels two different ways it can feel really crappy. And it can include beating yourself up and calling yourself stupid and not good enough and you set up everything and you know, how come it’s not happening and it should be happening faster, or it can feel really gentle and kind of like a resigned decision. And how you are choosing to white knuckle it determines the likelihood that it will go from a struggle session into one of the sessions of joy and ease. Now you shouldn’t do most of fit that way. So if you find yourself every time you’re sitting down, your inner author doesn’t want to come out and play, play with your environment play with the time of day you change as a person, when you are most productive where you are most productive. I talked about the time period when I had a perfectly lovely home office with a great chair and a great view of my guard. And it was gorgeous. My PhD dissertation did not want to be written in that room, I could not get a page out. And so when I accidentally discovered my friend’s basement was a fertile place for me, I actually paid him rent, so I could spend a couple months there. Um, so try other places in a gentle way, right? Like if you and your friend always went to, I don’t know a bowling alley and it was always super fun. And then you kept scheduling playdates there but you couldn’t get a lane and so you spent The whole time, you know, sharing a joystick playing Miss Pac Man, you wouldn’t just keep going back to the bowling alley, you would find a new place for your playdates. And so focusing your author Mojo is not just about identifying, focusing your author Mojo is about being able to stay in tune with when you are writing from that place of wholeness and empowerment, and when you are writing from that place of fear and lack. 


So I hope that today you have learned how a different way I hope of how you can find the discipline to write a book in a way that feels awesome to you and not like a struggle, and not like a torture session. It is possible I believe in you and go put these tools to action and leave me some comments and tell me how it worked for you.


This has been another episode of paychecks, where we help nonfiction authors want to book that makes the difference. If you liked the show today, be sure to tell a friend and leave us a review on iTunes. Check out houses to show book Johnny’s also on iTunes. And don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list at WWW dot the where you can learn more about how you can get your book written.

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