The Importance of Being Disciplined

In my quest to become published, I’ve finally accepted I won’t get anywhere without the dreaded “D” word.

I lack discipline.

God that feels good to admit; especially in a world that thrives on competitive impulses to prove one’s commitment to success via extreme measures (no thank you #teamnosleep: I will not be attending your narcoleptic gatherings; not for me #teamhustlehard: I have a limited amount of hustling in my spirit and the idea of using it gives me severe anxiety).

But as good as it feels to admit I lack Spartan dedication to my objectives, the fact still remains (whether I like it or not), to accomplish a goal, discipline is required.

I thought I could get around it on my latest quest: to become a published author and bring a “Gangsta Party” to the close knit literary world. I am talented after all: here lies the girl who’s been writing since she could talk, she doesn’t need discipline, just a muse strong enough to bypass her writer’s block (thank you Colson Whitehead for my hall pass).

But as the road to being published got tiring (rejection with no correction), and my spirit grew weary (can’t the words just form on the page?), I turned to the heavens and cried “URSULA!”

And the kind mage responded to me, bestowing sound writerly advice; bursting my bubble about there being some mystical secret only great writers know (there is none: only the work of doing it till you get it right and then doing it some more).

But even she used the “D” word on me:

“Some people see art as a matter of control. I see it mostly as a matter of self-control. It’s like this, in me there’s a story that wants to be told. It is my end. I am its means. If I can keep myself, my ego, my wishes and opinions, my mental junk, out of the way, and find the focus of the story, and follow the movement of the story, the story will tell itself . . .”

Goddammit Ursula.

Needless to say I was perplexed, how was I — a talented writer of great promise with no discipline— ever going to cheat — er, um — make my way to the top of the literary heap if it required the thing I lacked?

This question haunted my thoughts, disrupting my sleep as I’d find myself waking from feverish nightmares of a jacked-up anthropomorphic pen going Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant on me (“You worthless maggot — you call those REVISIONS!).

I could not abandon my dream (it made me suicidal the last time I tried) nor was I able to find the illusive discipline to accomplish it. Unable to find peace, I turned once more to the heavens — distressed, perplexed and other big word emotions the thesaurus knows better than I (ennui?) — and cried “KENDRICK!”

And behold the wise Pulitzer prize-winning magician from Compton sat me down and gave me the talk I did not want to hear:

Discipline gives me all my unvarnished strength and makes me curious about how disciplined I can be.

Fucking Kendrick.

I was left to roam my bedroom in grayscale despair for it would seem I had no choice. If both the greatest rapper alive (2nd only to Jay-Z — it’s a personal preference, though Jay does not have a Pulitzer) and the wisest writer to have graced the 20th century, were both saying the same thing then there was only one solution to my dilemma:

Cry like a little bitch baby because I had to develop discipline.

My problem is not unique among writers. The imagination is a strange place filled with sights, sounds and opinions (not always your own); it’s so easy to get lost in there and not know where to focus your attention (or the readers). And unfortunately a wild imagination with an unfocused imagineer at the helm produces stories that feel like fever dreams.

As I have officially run out of rope to hang myself with, it is finally time for me to do the right thing: apply what I learned and develop a habit of discipline and commitment to the art and science of writing. I don’t know if I’ll win a Pulitzer like Kendrick (though Colson Whitehead has renewed the aspiration) or take home numerous Hugos and Nebulas like Ursula (a girl can dream), but at least I will have done the work of great writers: disciplining myself to better share my imagination with people.

Now if you’ll excuse me Sgt. BIC is demanding I drop and give him 500 words.

Y’all pray for me.

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Jael R. Bakari

Jael R. Bakari

I write and speak about the shit that keeps me up at night. 4️⃣🖤🐑www.jaelrbakari.com