Passion vs. discipline and a writing retreat

The fabulous author Michele Lang wrote a great blog post recently about passion and discipline, and how the two can work together in order to create a more balanced approach to writing.

My favourite part is from the beginning, where discipline goes out the window:

My preferred method for finishing a book is to go deep, disappear into the thickets, and come out a month later, bloodied but triumphant, with an entire manuscript in hand.

Michele goes onto explain that she really can’t work this way any longer while still… you know… actually staying sane living life and taking care of her family and other business, but there is something in that sentence that speaks to me. The idea of going deep – almost as though into the underworld – and to finally emerge after some kind of Shamanic experience/rebirth is pretty awesome, and it’s something I’m very interested in. (I’ve mentioned this before, in a post about the ‘Revision Cave’ over at the Deadline Dames.) I also believe it’s the way I work best, and maybe it will always be the way I work best…

These are the things I’ve been thinking about, lately, as I approach the current manuscript (The Wood Queen) and find myself floundering amid all kinds of other tasks and Life Issues.

But if I remember this fundamental truth, that ‘passion’ is at the heart of everything I write, I should be okay.

First of all, there’s the passion of the idea, that hot blaze of oh-my-god-this-is-IT!!

Then comes the passion of planning and research. I don’t do so much planning, but there is always research. That part feels wonderful and usually opens up never-before-imagined avenues of thought. It also gives me lots of new ideas for future projects, though I have to discipline myself not to follow those new paths until I’ve completed the current work.

There is passion in the writing process itself, of course. But only when I allow myself to forget everything else and just write and write and write; to not let anything stand in my way. If I start getting sidetracked by other stuff, or if I second guess myself… then the delicate flame of passionate creativity blows out. It is very hard to reignite it after that.

Once I have my first draft down, I try to let it sit for as long as possible. A month is ideal, a week will do in a pinch.

Finally, it’s onto revisions; however many rounds of revisions and rewrites and polishing the manuscript needs – that’s exactly what it gets. Even if it’s like, ten rounds. Ugh. Notice, I don’t use the word ‘passion’ here. The only passion I feel for the revision process is a passionate hatred. 😉

I don’t think I’m very good with the ‘discipline’ part of being a writer, but I hope that passion takes me a long way. Or at the very least, where I need to go.

So, this weekend I’ll be entering the writing cave, Friday 23rd to Monday 26th July, and taking a self-imposed writing retreat. I won’t be online much at all. I won’t even be answering email (unless, of course, you are my agent or any of my editors *g*).

*Image w/text created by Kaz*


  1. I love the quote, because for me, too, the entire process of writing a novel is a frenzied dive into somewhere deep and secluded, and each one has been cathartic in a different way. And it’s true about self-doubt or other things getting in the way and blowing out the passion flame. If I think “I’ll be querying this novel when I finish it” that’s the best way to get myself stuck and sans inspiration.


  2. Discipline eludes me most of the time…okay almost all of the time. The kids are gone to grandmas this week and I restarted a short story that I couldn’t get off my mind. I’ve been working on it everyday, and now I need to take that energy and KEEP it up when the kids return. LOL

    I’ll be crossing my fingers and toes that your retreat is VERY successful!

    Oh, I wanted to mention there is a cool review of Kiss Me Deadly over at the Book Smugglers blog. They mention your story too:)


  3. Have a wonderful retreat, Kaz! I hope to schedule a few weekends just for writing this fall.


  4. Happy caving! May you come up with a fistful of diamonds.



  5. Hey, I’ve seen The Descent. Be careful in that cave. 😉


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