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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Wanted: Drill Instructor

Sometimes I wish I had a writing drill instructor—someone who whips new novelists into shape. I want that guy to come into my writing barracks and kick me in my lazy writing—self.

I make all sorts of excuses for why I’m not writing—you probably do too. I need to walk the dogs. I’m networking on Facebook or Twitter. My chair is uncomfortable. I wrote yesterday. I deserve a break.

So, yeah, it’s easy for me to fantasize about someone who will make me be good. I imagine the drill instructor moving into my personal space, steel gray eyes boring into mine, a sneer on his lips.

“You call yourself a writer, recruit?”

I wheel my chair back. “Um, yeah. Sure.”

“I didn’t hear you, recruit!” he bellows, nose an inch from mine.


“Yes, what, recruit?”

I snap to attention, saluting with my Strunk & White and tucking Self-Editing for Fiction Writers under the other arm. “Sir! Yes, sir! I write novels, sir!”

“Oh you do, do you? On the computer, recruit! Give me 20—pages. And they’d better be your best—none of that Momma’s Boy drivel you wrote yesterday.”

Yep, that’s how it would be if I had a drill instructor at home. But since I don’t, and you don’t either, how can we instill real discipline into our writing lives? If the D.I.s won’t make house calls, we’ll have to go to them.

I’m going to find a writing drill instructor who will make sure I do my stretches
and reps—and who’ll cut me no slack.

It could be hard. It could hurt. But I’m talking writing boot camp. I can see it now:

“You call yourself a writer, recruit?”

“Sir! Yes, sir!”

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.


  1. Thank you for your humorous take on an issue I deal with often! I find that the only way I keep on task is to have others hold me accountable.
    When I make a goal, I announce it publicly and ask my friends to check up on me. So far that has worked for me.

  2. Too true Christine! And I'm toying with that exact idea for my next post.

    How to be my own drill instructor--and accountability will be a huge part of the process.

    Write well!

  3. I tried to make Steven Pressfield my drill instructor with his book "The War of Art". It did help me to schedule my writing with the priority of an actual job I need to show up for, and do it regardless of how I feel that day. but I've slacked off recently.
    "Back to work, Troops!"
    "Sir, yes, sir!"

  4. LOVE this, Mike! And where did you get that photo of Jerry? Or did you take it specifically for this article? If so, my hat's off to you & Jerry for the fun.

    And now I expect you to be MY drill Sergeant.

  5. Ane: The photo of Jerry is fun, I agree. He's a good sport. Take the link in the article and you can see where I snagged it from.

    You might also recognize at least one other drill instructor in the photo... :)

    P.J.M.: Haven't heard of that one ... will have to look it up. But you did make me remember that I am supposed to be reading through James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers this year ... yet another way I'm slacking off.

    "Crack that whip!" (Yes, Devo...)


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