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Enthusiasm over Discipline

"It must take so much discipline to be an artist," we are often told by well-meaning people who are not artists but wish they were. What a temptation. What a seduction. They're inviting us to preen before an admiring audience, to act out the image that is so heroic and Spartan-- and false.

As artists, grounding our self-image in military discipline is dangerous. In the short run, discipline may work, but it will work only for a while. By its very nature, discipline is rooted in self-admiration. (Think of discipline as a battery, useful but short-lived). We admire ourselves for being so wonderful. The discipline itself, not the creative outflow, becomes the point.

Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process, a loving recognition of all the creativity around us.

Enthusiasm (from the Greek, "filled with God") is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work. Far from being a brain-numbed soldier, our artist is actually our child within, our inner playmate. As with all playmates, it is joy, not duty, that makes for a lasting bond.

from The Artist's Way

3 Comments on "Enthusiasm over Discipline"

  1. I have been battling mental illness for 20 years and currently am unable to work at all. Yet my big dream is to write a book. My book is called Crazy Quilt it is the story of an artist living with mental illness. So far I have been writing sporadically in my creative writing class. I get frustrated though I get frustrated because my output seems so slow. I hate being incapacitated due to my disability. I never feel I am making enough ouput. I feel pressured.

    • Lyndah Johnson says:

      I’ve been told that when climbing Mt. Everest the closer you get to the top the heavier your feet seem to get and your steps become more difficult to take. However, taking those steps people have reached the top. They don’t talk about how difficult the steps are, they talk about how wonderful the feeling is when they get there. Keep taking those steps and come back here to tell us how wonderful the view is at the top.

  2. Wow this blog is now going to be on my daily read list. This is awesome!!

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