Art and discipline - mutually exclusive?

Monday morning, early. I've been trying to change from a night owl to a early bird. As much as part of me wishes to still be wrapped in warm blankets, drifting off to sleep... another part of me (a very small one) is excited to think I'm already at the computer deciding what I want to do at this moment. Work on the song I started yesterday? Lay down more percussion for the instrumental cue I started on Friday? How about write something for my blog?

I remember, years ago, walking with my girlfriend across a long bridge in my hometown, and talking about what it might be like to be free from conventional work. To not have to work in an office, factory, or restaurant. To not have 'a boss'. We talked about the way our lives are structured by the work that we do, the expectations of us during those hours, and how we develop a sense of responsibility and even loyalty to that structure and those who impose it. In return for our time and efforts, we are compensated with cash. Security. Benefits. And a sense of foundation because we know what we are going to be doing come Monday morning.

What would it be like, we wondered, to be totally free to pursue our artistic, creative lives, without 'a boss' other than ourselves? How would we find the discipline to 'do' when it would be just as easy to 'not do'. Would we be able to structure our days effectively and produce on a consistent basis in order to receive compensation? We agreed it would likely be difficult, especially in the beginning, after leaving the structured work world we knew so well. Not that we expected to have that opportunity any time soon... it was a dream, then.

I remember, a year or two later, arranging to meet with a local visual artist so that I could interview her for an article I was writing... and she told me she started her day with morning pages and coffee. Then she painted from 9 am to 3 pm. She could meet me after that. I was rather in awe of that discipline.

One of the difficulties in working at home or working as an artist is often people don't see what you are doing as 'serious' and will often expect you to answer the phone, reply to emails, meet for coffee, run errands, look after this or that... and it's very easy to lose the time you had set aside for creative projects.

But more than that is your own inner voice. You sit down, pick up the pen, open the notebook; turn on the computer and load up your DAW; arrange your brushes, paints, and prepare a canvas.... and suddenly a nagging voice will start to invade the process... telling you that the kitchen floor needs a wash, or the junk drawer needs tidying, or that stuff at the back of the fridge might need sorting out. Before you know it, you're checking Facebook or email or watering the plants.

As much as a creative person might say they don't want to be scheduled, they want to work from inspiration and without expectation, if we don't set that time aside for ourselves, inspiration will likely not occur that often. We need to make a schedule and keep that commitment to ourselves. Without that kind of focus, we feel adrift... blurry... maybe even demoralized.

It's better for us to create daily, good or bad, as part of our routine because then, our creative muscle is flexed consistently. We have to be willing to write / play / sing / paint / etc the not-so-good as 'grist for the mill' in our daily practice because then we will have the foundation prepared and ready to receive inspiration and carry it through to a final product that works.

Sometimes it's hard to start. That's why I like participating in things like NaNoWriMo, FAWM, 50-90, etc. If we do artistic practices like writing morning pages (The Artist's Way) or writing exercises or speed songwriting or skirmishes or challenges... then it assists us to move away from judgement and worrying about the end result before we've even begun. We open the door to the muse and the flow. And hopefully, too - we feel a sense of satisfaction in the rest of our day because we kept that commitment to ourselves, and because.. well... the act of doing lights us up inside.

How do you jumpstart your creativity? Do you have a schedule or routine? Let me know in the comments below :)

No comments: