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Stay Disciplined. Become Inspired.

posted Jul 20, 2017, 12:38 PM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Jul 20, 2017, 12:43 PM ]


I recently read a quote about discipline being more important than inspiration. I have to admit I always thought inspiration set my pen in motion, but when I really look at my past writing motivation and discipline seem to be the real force behind most of it. The motivation to write has sometimes come from an instructor telling the class to write about a certain subject, for a certain purpose and for a certain length of time. Within those somewhat vague parameters I usually struck upon something in my reading, research or circumstances that provided what felt like inspiration, but it had not been inspiration that started the whole process. It had been outside motivation. Every assignment drags a deadline along behind it requiring discipline to get the assignment done.

As I am starting to realize more and more, art is not just the byproduct of some romantic and ideal notion that we all have of a painter in an attic studio with light filtering in just so and cobwebs draped in the eaves—never getting tangled in hair or floating down and getting stuck in the paint. Real art being created is not a writer sitting in a coffee shop or quaint pub, smoking cigarettes and wearing a scarf as he sits without a care and scribbles something poetic on a crisp page that has no cross-outs or misspellings. Art is not a potter at the wheel and music playing in the background while the clay displays perfect symmetry and its clean lines just spin and spin and spin. Nothing explodes in that kiln. Nothing breaks in that studio because it is not real, but imagined.

Things do break and smear and get crumpled up and thrown away when real people are creating real art. For a painter, a writer, a potter or an artist of any sort to be productive there must be discipline. There must be habit. There must not be any giving up or giving in or surrendering to frustration because there will surely be frustration and you can bet on disappointment. A mere mortal simply cannot continue after disappointment without discipline. Art must not stop. The process must be moving constantly. Not everything will be perfect. Not everything will be a pleasure to create. The ink must keep flowing out of the pen. If it stops, concentration is lost, and focus is shifted it is very difficult to get back into a groove.

It has been over a month since I wrote a blog entry which, up until now, had fallen into a natural two-week rhythm. I didn’t even really have to think about it. I would get the feeling that I hadn’t written or polished or published in my blog and so—low and behold—it would usually be about two weeks since I had last produced a piece. What changed? Why has it been over a month since my last entry?

School is out. My family’s schedule changed. Habits changed. Schedules went out the window. My discipline gave way to the siren songs of summer vacation. It was certainly not inspiration that went missing. I just came back from the Canadian province of Alberta where there is a healthy dose of inspiration from every vantage point. If you ever want to feel like a great photographer—go to Alberta. But, clean your camera lens first! You simply cannot take a bad photo there. And, since a picture is worth a thousand words—words should have been dripping from my pen. Not so. Despite having Rocky Mountains, turquoise lakes, glaciers, fields of gold and beautiful horses to inspire me—I barely wrote a word the entire two weeks. Apparently discipline had taken a vacation as well.
I started one journal entry and was interrupted only to restart it a few minutes later in a different location and finally abandoned it halfway down the page. There was so much going on to write about but just no time set aside within which to write. No space was made. I was traveling with my husband and four young children while joining up with extended family and a sea of cousins along the journey. Quiet time alone was simply non-existent. I was there to visit and experience, not to sit quietly alone.

Sometimes we sit and wait for inspiration to wash over us. 

We don’t want to write about nothing. We are convinced that our role is a somewhat passive one and so we will just wait until we think of something worthwhile. I can tell you, that approach is all wrong. If you find yourself with the time to sit and write—just do it. Even if it is about trivialities. Even if you would rather do anything else. Even if you are feeling hopelessly uninspired. Through the discipline of writing constantly and habitually, you will stumble across something inspirational along the way. Inspiration will find us eventually, but not without the steady hands of motivation and discipline holding candles aloft as a guiding light.