How to Stay In Your Chair and Write, Even If You’re Not Motivated To Do So — a lesson from Roald Dahl

By Ruth Barringham

In an interview with Lucy Dahl, one of Roald Dahl’s daughters, she talked about her father’s consistant, daily writing practices. She said that he had a favorite chair that he would sit every day in his writing shed at the bottom of the garden.

The chair was an old arm chair that used to belong to his mother.

He would place a wooden board across the arms of the chair to use as a desk.

The top of the board was covered with pool table green cloth which he would brush when he first sat down.

He would then take out 6 HB pencils and sharpen each one with an electric pencil sharpener.

He would sit in this chair with his board and 6 pencils and paper, and write every day from 10-12 and from 3-5.

No matter what.

No matter if it was a good day of writing or a day when the words just didn’t seem to come, he would “put his bottom on the chair” at the same time every day.

The reason for the 6 pencils was so that when his pencils were all used up and were no longer sharp, he knew it was time to stop writing.

When asked what she learned from her father as a writer, she said, “He taught me the discipline of the hours— 10-12 and 3-5. And even if there’s nothing to write you sit your bottom on that chair because something will come.”

It’s this type of discipline that many of us lack.

Even if our ‘bottoms are on the chair’ we may not be writing, and instead be sucked away on social media or checking our email accounts.

And even though Roald Dahl didn’t have to contend with things such as Facebook, I’m sure he wouldn’t have allowed it into his writing shed or to interrupt his time in his chair.

This type of writing discipline that Roald Dahl had is what is needed if you want to succeed as a writer and earn all your money from your craft.

It’s easy to think that we should only sit down and write when we feel inspired, but if I know the if I did that, most weeks I wouldn’t write at all.

But even on days when I don’t feel like writing, once I sit down and get to work, the inspiration and the motivation soon arrive and carry me along.

So it’s fair to say that almost all of my writing comes through the hard work of sitting down and staying in it.

The hardest thing is to actually sit down every day and ‘apply backside to chair.’

But once I get over that hurdle, the rest is easy (or at least easier).

My writing is how I earn all my money and as the only wage earner at home I have to make myself sit down and write every day, even when I’d rather do something else.

So what does your commitment to doing the hard work look like?

How do you stay in it when you want to leave?

Or do you leave and go and do something else less important?

And if you do leave…how is THAT working for you?

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