Yes, you read the title correctly. Living a creative life requires a lot from a person. There is always something that is set aside so that we may write, sing, dance, sculpt, cook, paint, or play our instrument. And most of the time we’re okay with what we bypass in order to engage with our medium. We’re always teetering on the edge of loving our muse, listening to our critic, being bold with new words and dark lines, and hiding from the judgment of the world. Sometimes we juggle full-time jobs, children, spouses or significant others, friends, and hobbies, along with working and playing and self-care. It is an intricate dance, one in which we often discover the steps along the way, either through trial and error or by following in the footprints of those that have gone before us. Yes, living a creative life takes discipline.
And what do we do when an artist’s block rears its head and we’re stopped, no room to move backward (and who’d want to?) and the future is fraught with real or imagined goblins and trolls? We text our friends about inane subjects, clean the house, flip through channels, spend hours on the Internet doing “research”, engage in household repairs, take out the trash so we can become distracted by the overloaded garage, the weeds emerging from between the flowers, the dirty car in the driveway, or feign sudden interest in whatever junk mail the postal carrier has delivered that day. We do anything besides getting back to “work”. Even if it isn’t a complete block, maybe it’s just a downturn in energy, our muse taking a short vacation before the current project can be finished. So, what do you do? If you give in to the procrastination to stay away from your art, that takes discipline.
You’ve spent energy and money to gather supplies, setting aside a time and a place to “play” with you muse and allow your creativity to enhance your life. But then something happens, and suddenly you’re deaf to the whisperings of joy. The longer one stays away from the smile-giving action, the more difficult it is to return to it. And anything that becomes difficult, if we choose to bust our way through it, requires discipline. We stay in the procrastination, putting off indefinitely our opportunity to create perhaps as an experiment in contrast. We schedule and plan and try out various ways to expand our art, trying new approaches, reading about other’s ideas. Invariably, we apply the same determination to staying away, sometimes at the first bump in the road.
You’re stuck, you’re afraid, you’re angry with yourself and everyone around you. Now what? Make a list of everything you’d rather do besides create. Fill up a whole piece of paper. Both sides! Number them, and don’t skip lines. In a different colored pen or pencil, add what you need to complete the project, job, assignment, or task. In front of the number, in yet another color (the brain loves color, loves organization), guess how long it would take for you to complete the item. Then close your eyes, trail your finger or pencil up and down the paper, then stop. Open your eyes. Wherever your pencil or finger stopped, that is the task that you will complete before you return to your art. That’s right. I’m proposing that instead of pushing aside everything, that which you long to do but are blocked from continuing, and that which you use to put off your creativity, you do first one, and then the other. Don’t complain! You’re full of discipline, aren’t you? This is just an attempt at balance.
One of my yoga instructors admitted that she would rather spend an extra two minutes brushing her teeth, a few more minutes watching commercials, than sit in meditation for fifteen minutes. Regardless of the practice (art or yoga) procrastination can reign easily, if we also give it discipline. There are many times that I don’t feel like getting on the mat, but I do it anyway. Discipline. Sometimes, in the heat of a Phoenix summer, I don’t want to go out in the burning sunshine to clean stalls or groom my horses. I do it anyway. I set the procrastination aside (all the ways the ego will devise for things not to get done, for you to wallow around in something other than your duty), and I do the work. Most days. I admit that I have my foibles like everyone else. I’m human, and therefore I have habits that seem easier to indulge in than setting them aside and doing the work. And, yes, sometimes it is work, whether it is grooming my horses or writing a chapter or asking a manager to carry my yoga poem project in their studio. The practice of tapas, in yoga, is just that. It literally means “heat”. When we do something that we are afraid to do, that we don’t want to do (regardless of the endless excuses created by the mind), we begin to burn away the habit. In this case, it is the habit of procrastination.
We have a choice (and I remind my students of this nearly every day). Use the practice of discipline to build up the walls against creativity, fortifying procrastination (for our art or work or whatever), or engage discipline for our own uses. The longer we stay away from that which breathes life into our art, into our lives, animates our muse, increases the possibility that the path of creativity becomes overgrown with weeds; perhaps to the point of no longer finding our way, and we turn wrinkled, withered, brown like flowers left too long without fresh water, with the lack of what speaks to our souls. So choose. Procrastination, part-time, can be dealt with, overcome. And before I move to the other room to choose to engage in the discipline of writing every day, setting my procrastination aside for what gives me a heart-felt smile, I’ll invite you to view a few new short stories on my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com You know my choice. What will be yours?