The art of discipline

A thought came to me years ago which still challenges me greatly.  “The disciplined artist succeeds.”

I mean artist in the broad sense of the word.  Writer, musician, painter, photographer, filmmaker, etc.  I also mean those who engage in artistic activities, not just those who make a living at it.  An artist at heart.

I think most of us tend to be indulgent sorts, sometimes overly so.  Partying, experimenting, addictions.  Artists need and want to experience things in order to reproduce some part of life in their work.  That can lead to trouble.  I just quit smoking last October, and hit the bottle pretty hard for a while about four years ago.  Of course, these things aren’t unique to artists, but they can be more damaging to a creative soul.

But even if one doesn’t wander into more serious traps, it can still be very difficult to discipline oneself to stick to something to fruition.  I know it’s tough for me to finish one thing before moving on to another.  I switch from a short story to a screenplay to poetry.

It’s also a struggle to sit down and write.  Maybe writers are the worst. “I hate writing, I love having written.”  says Dorothy Parker.   I personally can find a million things to do before writing.  It’s why my evenings after work get away from me, night after night, week after week for months and years.  I remember reading in a textbook for a writing class at community college in which the author admonished the reader that it’s possible to think of yourself as a writer your whole life and never actually achieve it.  It won’t happen to me.  That was my reaction.  A fervent and immediate reaction.  I’m 45 and it hasn’t happened yet.  Fortunately, I’ve got this discipline thing down.  Ha! I kill me. Anyway,  I’m working on it.

I’ve realized that discipline is a demanding mistress.  It doesn’t like to share.  The times that I’ve gotten the most done are when I’m on a whole life discipline kick.  I start working out, quit smoking, getting up when the alarm goes off,  being on time and writing.  It feels good and keeps you going.  If you recognize your triggers that make you slack off, nip it in the bud!  When one area slides, others will follow down that slippery slope.

Discipline gets you from inspiration to completion.

Ever have a great idea that you can’t wait to get started on, but once you get it started, you get bogged down in the details.  It’s frustrating when that spark of elation turns into, well, work.  Keep pushing through it.  It will be worth it.  I hope to see you at the finish line.  Maybe I’ll be waiting for you.  Maybe you’ll be waiting for me.  Here’s to the race.

 

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