discipline and creativity

For much of my life, I thought creativity didn’t apply to me. Some people are given those beautiful creative juices, like my friend Julie. But others like myself are left trying to squeeze juice from a dried fruit. And even though I have grown to love the creative process, I still don’t think of myself as someone with juicy, squirting, I-need-a-napkin-to-slop-this-up creativity. But now I am starting to wonder about the element of discipline in creativity.

The two seem mutually exclusive to me. Creativity is something that bends and blows, driven unpredictably by the wind. It is whimsical and free-spirited and completely non-linear. Discipline is rigid and strict and completely uncompromising. Discipline has a linear plan that follows the expected path. The elements of performance and end result are inherent in discipline, yet they thwart the creative process. Aren’t these two things like oil and water?

So, like most things in my life, I have thought discipline and creativity mutually exclusive. And, like most things in my life, I am learning they co-exist in quite a mysterious way.

Take this blog, for example. The main reason I started this blog was to force myself to write…to add an element of discipline to my creative process and creative expression. And I am learning that, like the rest of my experience in writing, not everything produced am I 100% pleased with. Not every post is what I would consider a “success”. But I am practicing, so to speak. I am forcing myself to write something on a regular basis, and I am forcing myself to put it out there to anyone in that big, wide world who is willing to read it, no matter what they might think of it.

And what I have found so far in adding discipline to creativity is that sometimes I try to tackle bigger projects than I might have otherwise, simply because I am making myself do something, and that is the thing that comes to my mind. It may not go anywhere, I may end up scrapping that post and writing about something else instead, but I attempted something I otherwise would have left untouched. And that, in and of itself, seems like a success to me. All because of a discipline to engage in creativity – no matter where it takes me.

And in this process, I think of my friend Julie. She is a true artist – creative juices squirt out of her like a fountain. She even gets paid for her art. She is full of ideas and loves to go to her studio and see what the wind blows in that day. But I have to believe there are some days she doesn’t feel creative before she goes to the studio but she goes anyway. And I bet some of those days she comes back full and energized and amazed by what came out of her. And there are probably other days she isn’t perfectly satisfied with what blows in and leaves a little frustrated. But in and through all of those days, some very beautiful art is created.

So I love this picture because I took it in my friend Julie’s studio. My son was having an art-birthday party so I had my camera and took pictures of more than just the kiddos. Not every picture was what I wanted it to be, but out of them all, I ended up with this one – a picture I love and find deeply satisfying to look at. It wallpapers my laptop. The tools of an artist that look like creativity waiting to happen inspire me. And I am simultaneously reminded of the discipline of the attempt followed by the freedom to go where the wind blows.


6 thoughts on “discipline and creativity

  1. Diane says:

    I am not all that creative when it some to things blowing and flowing, but I can get very creative in my color coding. It’s not always a rainbow…

    Great post, RB! I love to read them.

  2. LOL!! Diane, I LOVE your response, too! Becca, this is soooo true!! Laughed out loud at the idea of squeezing juice from a dried fruit, and even decided to stop there and call to see if I could read it with you over the phone to savor every juicy drop! I never thought of myself as creative either…and slowly, I realized that my time in a ceramics painting shop in OB with my teaching friends was resulting in a delight from creating I’d never before experienced, except maybe for a few moments stamping cards in my craft room. What a delight it can be to see the fruit of a willingness to submit to the discipline of putting ourselves out there! (trite, but true-no learning in the comfort zone and no comfort in the learning zone) This has been a year full of growth for me as I’ve been willing to subject myself to those days where I’ve felt less than satisfactory at what’s been ‘created’ and other days where I’ve been so touched at the beautiful art that’s unfolded before me!
    …I also LOVED the phrase “creative juices squirt out of her like a fountain!”

  3. That combination of discipline and creativity is what I call process. If a nice tidy package of creativity is what someone is aiming for, to put on the shelf and say “this is creativity” it just won’t happen. If I discipline myself to pick up my brush everyday and create something fabo that ain’t going to happen either. Then what I create is stiff and soulless. But if I learn the dance of Practice– I must take time for walks to fill my soul, study art books and museum pieces, sit still and draw till the lines are right, learn how to use my medium and mix my colors– then when I come to my canvas I have a solid place to start. And then I dance. I dance between line, and form that takes discipline and the fun creativity of the color and spaces I create. If the two are not unified you either have soul-less perfection or sloppy chaos. It’s a dance. And I know in my heart we were ALL meant to dance it!

  4. itsakoolife says:

    Julie! So fun to hear from the artist herself here! Love your holistic reminders to care for the whole artist and learn the tools and LOVE the encouragement that we were all meant to dance! Thank you my friend! Hope you are enjoying artist mecca, aka Portland!

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