Some thoughts on being a compulsive writer and a disciplined one.

This morning on Twitter (via Direct Message) I told my buddy Mark I’m almost done with my WIP.  He’d just finished reading another one for me, so he accused me of taking performance enhancers.

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I get asked this fairly often.  How do I get so much writing done? What’s the secret to my productivity?

Lest you think I’m bragging, I don’t FEEL productive! I feel like I’m always chasing my own deadlines and never getting enough done. I’m not one of those people that writes 6 or 10K every day. Rather, I live in envious awe of them. I feel negligent about social media, and marketing, and my business plan is basically “write my ass off, submit, write more.”

But if I’m honest with myself, I am productive. While working full time and being a mom, I seem to be able to write about two full-length novels a year, plus some novellas and short stories.

Part of it maybe about style, and method.  I could tell you all what works for me, but I don’t really think it’s about that. I think it’s a quirk of my personality.

Basically this:

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Some of you may have seen that quilt. It’s in my living room. And also the garden which I planned myself in spite of knowing NOTHING about landscaping or plants, by studying countless issues of Sunset Magazine.

And this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 9.40.48 AMAnd this:

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Pre-kids, I would spend my entire day off (Fridays, back then) making pasta.  It was DEADLY on my diet.

It also made my husband crazy.  His method of decompressing is to browse the Internet or play video games.  Mine is to do ALL THE THINGS. And sometimes not to bother cleaning up the mess. Two-thirds of the way through that sweater, I’d be picking out the next pattern.  I still have quite a yarn stash at my house.  Maybe I should use it for contest giveaways? There are some knitters out there, right?

Still, I don’t smoke, or wash my hands too often, or obsessively clean my house (some of you have seen evidence of this fact too!).

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Mark said this:

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I’m not quite sure what my version of evil gain would be.  Control of the world’s supply of chocolate? Mandatory reading of romance novels?

I guess Mark’s right, it probably is a good thing I focus on writing. Right now, I’m very content to do my priest job, love my family, and tell stories. My goal is to have a long writing career and to keep reaching readers who like my books (hopefully more and more of them). 

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Well, thanks Mark! And also for that fun little chat. It got me thinking about the pros and cons of being compulsive.

Of all of these compulsions, writing is the best one for me. I think my husband agrees.  I was knitting for myself, or the people I might give something to.  Certainly, the gardening and the pasta making was all for me (DH got very sick of pasta).  They are crafts, like writing is a craft.  My interest in storytelling started out with the same compulsive drive, this time to put words on the page, but with writing my compulsion transformed into a discipline, like an ugly little caterpillar becoming a butterfly.


Sorry. I know.  *sticks finger in throat*

I couldn’t resist :-)

The real difference is, I write for myself AND for readers. I chose my subjects based on my personal interests, because I know I will write the best book that way (Alexis Hall said something similar to this when I interviewed him on Paranormal Unbound). But beyond that, all the deadline setting, the soliciting critiques, the ruthless self-editing, the back and forth with my editor.  The drive–that is about making the best book I can for readers and getting it out there with the hope someone will love my characters and their story as much as I do.

And along the way, I’ve also had to use discipline to find balance, to close the laptop and be with my family, to build in some time for exercise.

And I’ve found just how much my priestly work and my writing go together. I get to proclaim God’s love, and the ways it is experienced incarnationally (in our bodies and in the world) through romantic and erotic relationships. I get to speak out about the importance of women (and men!) claiming our sexuality publicly, and challenging people who use sexual shame to disempower others.

So yeah, God made me a little nuts. But I’m grateful. It’s fun this way, and I get a lot done.

What about you? Are you compulsive? Disciplined? A little bit of both.


This entry was posted in Sex, Spirituality, Writing and tagged , by Amber Belldene. Bookmark the permalink.

About Amber Belldene

Amber Belldene grew up on the Florida panhandle, swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons—an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. Amber is an Episcopal Priest and student of religion. She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. Some people think it is strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to her, because the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that desire. She lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco


Some thoughts on being a compulsive writer and a disciplined one. — 6 Comments

  1. Amber, It’s great getting an inside peek into your process. I’m disciplined as a writer (and in other areas of my life), but it took me years to become so disciplined. One thing I did have going for myself is that I like structure. I don’t think of myself as a compulsive writer, but I’m a compulsive reader and movie/TV watcher on occasion. LOL Keep up the great work!

    • LOL So glad I got you thinking! I’m curious if you could share more about how you’re so productive. Like does your work require lots of revision? That’s where I spend lots of time. Also, can you share about when you write? Late at night? Early in the morning Whenever you can? Thanks! I know theses are geeky writerly questions…

  2. happy to share! I write whenever I can. Parked in my car, early, late (if I can stay up). My routine is to wake up at 5am and write for 1 hour before my kids get up. Then, any more time I can grab each day is great.

    My work definitely requires revision, but I’m not sure what “a lot” is. I think I just work pretty fast, and when I realize a plot point needs to change, I just get in there with the wrecking ball and do it all at once.

    I LOVE Scrivener for the ease of labeling scenes and chapters and hopping around to where interconnect plot points are–it makes revision a lot easier for me.

    One trick I have, which doesn’t work for everyone, is that I listen to my own work via text to speech. It’s a great way to catch typos, abrupt transitions, and inconsistencies–I listen in car, when doing chores, etc. I think this works for me because I’m an auditory learner.

    • That’s so awesome, that you get in there and rewrite so easily. That’s where I often choke. So cool about the text to speech. I’ll look into that, since I’m also an auditory learner. How do you set that up?

  3. You should really do a yarn giveaway! You have at least one crocheter in the house!

    I listen to a couple of blogs (Beyond the To-do List and the Accidental Creative) to get ideas about productivity. I know discipline and practice are vitally important in our lives, but I think I don’t do as much as I could. Then again, I find I don’t give myself credit when I have been productive, and I always think I could do more. I guess the proof is in the pudding (or homemade pasta)–I am almost done crocheting Princess Luna (a My Little Pony) for my daughter. Who’s productive now?!

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