As someone who loves discussing creative endeavors I start to breathe shallow and break into a slight sweat when it comes to the topic of discipline. I am committed to leading a creative life, to nurturing my passion for making art, for writing. Okay that’s great! Hmm. …It looks like this place needs a good vacuuming. Or better yet, I should check my email. Blue the dog looks like he could use a walk. Wow, the sofa is in the sun. Look…how…inviting…all…of…a…sudden…I…feel…sleep…..y…………..
And, an orderly space, keeping current on my responsibilities, and rest are all ingredients of clearing my internal space for creativity to flourish. The space BETWEEN the words, the time between the work is a time for seeds to germinate. But it’s winter. My nature in January is to go to the nap.
Enter my friend and this discussion about discipline that sneaks up and suddenly I need to pee. I’m sorry, I say, can you hold that thought? Secretly I’m hoping she’ll forget the topic. She does, however, hold that thought. She begins to talk about discipline and its value in living a creative life. I know this, of course, and know I’m perfectly capable of kicking it out, preparing for a big exhibition, for example. And yet I keep having this Marine sergeant voice in my head calling me a lazy slug for the times in the sun on the couch. The thinking. The opening of space inside myself for new ideas to emerge. Organizing my studio. The walking of dog, and yes, even the vacuuming. “Prewriting” my high-school English teacher alter-ego calls it.
My drill sergeant gives a derisive snort.
Then my friend says something magical. My friend sitting across from me who is incredibly smart, and fit, someone I judge to be WAY better at the kind of discipline my drill sergeant has in mind. She says:
Discipline is simply turning toward that which you are committed to. And turning to it again. And again.
My breath deepens. My pulse slows. My mind goes fuzzy and I ask her to repeat it, thinking I must have mis-heard. Yes. She says it again. Discipline is simply turning toward that which you are committed to. And the practice, the discipline of coming back to that turning toward. My cells start vibrating, giving each other some space. I feel the skin around my temples go smooth. I begin to feel as if I’m getting into a warm bath, and I know what she says is true.
I come home, stretch, make a cup of tea. And turn to my studio. Wonder about what I want to make, what I want to write, what I want to create for myself. And then I vacuum. And while I’m vacuuming I wonder about what I want to make, what I want to write, what I want to create. And I nap. I go to sleep wondering what I want to create. It is delicious.
And I wake from my nap, and I go to my studio. And begin.