Writing Lessons: Chad Stroup

A snail moving across tile

In our Writing Lessons series, writers and writing students will discuss lessons learned, epiphanies about craft, and the challenges of studying writing. This week, we hear from Chad Stroup, a student in the MFA program at San Diego State University. You can follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter —Andrew Ladd, Blog Editor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASelf-inflicted discipline applied to writing is crucial, like remembering to pay bills so your power stays on. If you are serious about writing, you can’t just say, “Oh, I’d love to write a novel someday” or “I enjoy writing in my free time.” That’s fine and dandy for a hobbyist, but to even have a shot at success you have to want it, no—need it like a tall glass of ice water after being lost in the Mojave for three days. You must dig into the tunnels of your soul and put in the dedication to make it happen.

Written words of any quality will not magically appear like a rabbit out of a hat. This process does not involve simple creation; it is the product of motivation, time, and—ideally—raw, natural talent. Think of discipline itself as an art, similar to a penned version of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are you prepared to lock yourself away in a room with little ventilation on a blistering summer day, your own stench beginning to ripen into something almost palatable, with the spiders whispering from their cobwebs as your only companions?

Are you capable of releasing your internal demons, forming them into physical words so that they may exist in our written world, twisting them again and again until they finally make sense?

Are you able to temporarily abandon all sanity, human relations, and general health in order to accomplish your writing goals?

Are you willing to consider your art a priority, as if you might perish if you do not produce a respectable amount of pages per week?

I am.

My writing discipline has been a relatively recent change in my life, the impetus being my current involvement in an MFA program. This new approach has been huge for me, helping me to recognize my strengths and punish my weaknesses. I have made a sacred promise to myself to keep up this level of discipline post-graduation, and I will stick to it.

I’ve come to adopt the simple belief of “No Whining, No Excuses.” I work full-time, freelance part-time, and attend grad school full-time. I have a wife, two dogs, and a house to take care of.

Wait… Are there even enough legitimate hours in the day to accomplish all of this?

Let us not even speak of the other aspects of life that I find important (in case you were wondering, those are attainable as well). Despite all of the obstacles, I still find ample time to write. It can be done. With the proper discipline, it will be done.

Sleep is overrated. Save that for the coffin or the urn.

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