Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 23, 2010

What Does Discipline Look Like?

I once read about how John Cheever, who wrote brilliant stories blending realism and a bit of the fantastic, while writing in New York City in the fifties put on a white shirt and well-pressed jacket before heading to work at his typewriter. He didn’t commute to an office, but he wanted to look the part.

Now here I am on coastal Maine with a gorgeous view, wearing t-shirt, shorts, shabby sun hat, bare feet, and a grocery list in my pocket. Sometimes I watch a chipmunk scurry with a mouth filled with a tomato-red rosehip.

A dragonfly flits by, a bee lands on the deck.

In early morning, I’ve seen a mother with two baby deer.

And there’s the ocean.

And the clock: I’m not going to say I don’t watch it, keeping my morning writing hours, wondering when it’s time for lunch and a walk or swim and company.

But if I don’t keep this revision moving, nobody else is going to do it. Sometimes my husband and company have to wait. Thankfully, all are respectful, kind, and find their own happy diversions: in my daughter’s case, that’s sleep. With computer on my lap, and wiggling my toes, and staring, I could be any vacationer, perhaps checking email, and I’m not going to say that never happens. But most of the time I’m changing bad sentences to good phrases, or trying to. Most of the time I’m thousands of miles and years away.



  1. So impressed with your sticking to it in what sounds, frankly, a lot like paradise! And yay for kids who sleep in. 🙂

  2. I can’t WAIT to read what you write next. 🙂

  3. Oh, your view sounds perfect! I want to go to work with you 🙂

  4. I think we’d all like to share your office!
    Waiting patiently to someday read the words and phrases….

  5. But if I don’t keep this revision moving, nobody else is going to do it.
    That thought keeps me going, too, Jeannine. But I’m not sure I could be quite so dedicated if I had the ocean before me!

  6. First, a confession: your post’s title immediately brought to mind leather and whips. SO wrong on my part.
    I certainly don’t have the sorts of routines that look like disciplined authoring – it’s the opening of the document(s) that does it. And that’s all that matters.

  7. It’s that “If I don’t, no one else will” that keeps us going some days, I feel. Of course, being able to do so in beautiful surroundings can only help.

  8. Thanks, Becky. I find it easier to stick to if at least part of the day gets devoted to the work. And it’s a nice feeling to have a sleeping daughter around!

  9. You’re sweet, Jenny. And I can’t wait to read Taking Off!

  10. It would be even more perfect with some other writers making little clacking noises on computers! Wish you were here.

  11. Laurie, yes, I wish we were taking turns making coffee! Hope the end of summer is treating you well.

  12. I’m sure you’d find the patient ocean inspiring! There is that feeling of something begun should be finished that’s a lure.

  13. Opening documents sounds like the best form of routine, (which I’m not going to call discipline ever around you. I will be watching my mouth, or hand. And now that’s sounding off color, too.)

  14. Kathy, it sounds like you’ve been in a storm or whirl of creation this summer, so something is working. And certainly beauty always helps.

  15. I know exactly how you feel.

  16. I know exactly how you feel.
    Thank you. Aren’t those the words writers, and I suppose most everyone, too, loves to hear.

  17. Ah Jeannine, what a beautiful spot to write and relax. I’m so glad you have your family there too. I saw you posted a comment on my FB photo and when I went back to reply it was gone. But I wanted to say that I’ve missed writing with you this summer, but I will soon be back to join you. Keep that porch seat open, okay?
    hugs to you!

  18. Thank you. Inspired.

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