Inspiration or Discipline…What Makes for a Successful Author?

For as long as I’ve been a published author, I’ve heard some writers say they write when they are inspired, while others have a routine for writing.

So, which is more effective? I suppose it depends on the person, but as a published author many times over, if I had to wait to be inspired, I would likely still be working on my first book.

These Experts Are Disciplined

I have lots of friends, colleagues and clients who have written and published at least one book. Many have several books published. Most will tell you their formula for success is discipline first followed by inspiration.

I often hear aspiring authors say, “I write when I’m inspired.” Many of these same men and women stare at a blank computer screen day after day and have yet to publish anything.

On the flip side, I hear from authors who have several books to their credit say, “When I discipline myself to sit down and write, the inspiration follows.”

Truth vs. Reality

Before I was ever published, I romanced the idea of what it meant to be an author. The fantasy and reality are often worlds apart.

With several books to my name, dozens of information products, thousands of blog posts and articles written and lots of content on social media, this equates to millions of words.  A great majority of my writing was done through a routine of writing.

Granted, some of my writing is sparked by a conversation on Facebook or Twitter that inspires me to write. But more times than not, the flow of my words came from scheduling time to write.

My Own Journey with My Memoir

Currently, I’m in a rewrite of my first ever memoir. What I’ve discovered is a memoir requires a different type of writing skill than a business, spiritual or self-help book.

To assure my memoir is the best it can be, I hired a coach/editor who is helping me to pull out more color for a character in my book, a scene or a memory. Without her help, I would be struggling with the process. Working with someone as skilled as her is part of my discipline.

For well over a decade I thought of writing my memoir. Several months ago, I finally got serious about it. I was at a mastermind retreat when the thought, “You have thought about this long enough. It’s time to do it,” struck me.

Right there and then I made the commitment to get at least 60,000 words written in 60 days. To assure I would stay accountable, I posted my goal in a private Facebook group I host.

Each day, I wrote…without fail. No matter how “inspired” I felt, I wrote.  To stay accountable, I posted updates of my progress in the Facebook Group.

Thrilled when I achieved my goal, the first draft went to my editor. Little did I realize how much more work would be involved in the rewrite. Yet, because of this, I’m finding the manuscript is taking form in a way I never imagined.

My Reality

Am I always inspired to work on the manuscript? No, I’m not. Am I disciplined? Yes, I am.

Ironically, every time I stick to my disciplined schedule, I become inspired to share my story through a memoir.

For me, it’s discipline first, followed by inspiration. This is how I’ve written millions of words over the years.

As I’ve worked on the rewrite, I’ve also worked on the marketing foundation. This is another area many authors miss the boat. They are under the misguided assumption all they need to do is write.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. And if I didn’t make myself clear… wrong!

You must market. Whether you’re the one doing the marketing, or you outsource this aspect of your book success, marketing is a must do.

And marketing is more than listing your book on Amazon.

Lest you think I’m not inspired to write, I am. My inspiration comes from knowing my words can, and do, make a difference to my readers. My inspiration comes from knowing I am fulfilling my dream of being a successful, published author. My inspiration comes from knowing, by disciplining myself to write, I am living the life I once only dreamed of. My inspiration comes from knowing I am doing what I am here to do… write.

Do you wait for inspiration or do you incorporate discipline into your writing process?







  1. This post is right on time.Marketing is important for all aspects in this world .For successful blogs, it may be subtle or obvious its always there.I too feel writing daily has helped me most over the last 8 months.The discipline is important for inspiration.#UBC

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      Thanks for your insights and I totally agree.. the daily writing is powerful stuff!

  2. I do a little of both. Right now I am waiting for school to start back up next month where I will have more time to readily write on my blog.

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      As do I on the “little of both.” More inspiration now but there are times…. LOL

  3. Love the comment you wrote, Kathleen, “Before I was ever published, I romanced the idea of what it meant to be an author. The fantasy and reality are often worlds apart.”

    How true!! Nothing wrong with it – there are pros and cons to each – I chuckled at it since I had the same thought at one point.

    And of course, writing the book is only the tip of the iceberg! Next comes the marketing, possible book tours (live and.or virtual), promotions, etc., etc., etc.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I, too, write every day. But, I am lucky (or crazy) enough to write about a plethora of subjects that my writing is always inspired- today by a new invention, tomorrow by a person saved by a novel therapy, next week by a business that turned around…
    Inspiration is found in many places by me- and it helps drive me (and, yes, I am also disciplined – but a solar clock, not an alarmed one…)

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      Agreed Roy. When we have things we love writing about we do tend to be inspired. And yet, there are times we have something we want to write and we may not be completely inspired. That’s when the discipline comes in. And Roy… I love your blog and your writing. You rock.

  5. Thank you for sharing with me about finding the balance between inspiration and discipline Kathleen!
    I love to write when the “Muse Comes to Me” yet struggle with using technology. So this is where some daily discipline is definitely required!
    I’ve got a month to complete my first draft so will need Focus to turn this dream into reality 💖

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      Way to go Sarah. There’s so much available today that is extremely user friendly for those who are not comfortable with technology. If you can use Facebook and Twitter, you can market. 🙂

  6. I admire you being able to stick to your discipline. It made me ponder if I can also adhere effectively to a routine. I am very late in my posts for UBC but not because I am not inspired or there is nothing to write about. It’s the many things that come in between.

    I guess I have to go back again and learn about time management. 🙂

    Thumbs up!

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      Thanks for your transparency. I find, for me, my best writing time is first thing in the morning. When I do the post, it’s done, and I go on to the other tasks at had.