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Essay on Creativity: Discipline or Willingness?


Guest articles > Essay on Creativity: Discipline or Willingness?


by: Barbara Bowen


As a creativity coach and artist, I encounter the creative process close up. When it comes to keeping our creative goals on track, the word "discipline" can present problems. Webster defines the word in these terms: a systematic method to obtain obedience; submission to rules and authority; punishment intended to train or correct. For many of us, whether we are artists, in related art careers, or in other ways deeply involved with the creative process, discipline is like taking a dose of castor oil. Admonishing ourselves into action, we "force it down" in the attempt to fuel our creative power and reach our goals. But this approach is problematic.

Discipline is born of resistance. In itself, resistance is not negative, and is certainly not a character flaw. In fact, it is an inherent link in the cyclical chain of one's creative process. In life, we all must move through varying degrees of resistance in order to make space for the kind of creative inspiration leading to that delicious natural high we call "flow." As we learn to move through resistances effectively, we find ourselves reaching creative momentum, an important ingredient for reaching career goals successfully.

Why then, does discipline so often fail us? Why does it bring on a tangle of inner conflict, stress and guilt that hinders momentum and flow, or even stops our creativity in its tracks? I believe the answer is that discipline is often applied in opposition to resistance. When we oppose our resistance, we compound tension and perfectionism. We get mired in expectations and focused on outcomes, and thus, we miss the joy of creating in the moment. The discipline that was intended to bring mastery and success in our creative process, in fact, brings discontent and fatigue.

Since the word "discipline" is highly charged in regards to the creative process, I prefer to use the word "willingness" to help describe a new approach. Willingness can be cultivated, with patience. It takes a little time, but the rewards are great, indeed. In a state of willingness, our tensions loosen and our creative joy increases.

Here's how it works:

When resistance sets in, we choose to call upon the "awareness mind." The inner eye simply observes the resistance: non-judgmentally, creating a soft "container" for it. Like a meditation in motion, the awareness mind accepts resistance with no struggle. Ironically, acceptance of the resistance will loosen and melt it. We push nothing away. We gently shift our focus back to the task at hand, while allowing the resistance to dissolve. We waste no time pushing it away, and we avoid a draining struggle. The resistance is allowed to simply float off and dissolve on its own.

As we practice this shifting process, we notice resistance floating off more easily and more often. It no longer devolves into a pesky demon that gains control over our creative endeavors. Conflict, life stress and guilt begin to fade. Starting our creative process becomes easier. Resistance is replaced by more and more calm, and more flow. We begin to recover long lost pangs of creative inspiration when we wake in the morning. We define the word "success" on our own terms, we become empowered to take action, focus, and let go of outcomes. We surrender and engage with our creativity, moment by moment. If we stay loyal to this practice, one day we will notice that the discipline associated with the creative process has become our willingness.

(C) 2003 Barbara Bowen

Article by Barbara Bowen of - the definitive source for Art Career Coaching.

Contributor: Barbara Bowen

Published here on:

Classification: Creativity


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