Five Ways to be a Disciplined Artist

 I've spent the last four years trying to write every day Monday through Friday. I thought making time to work on my writing was my biggest hurdle. I became a minimalist and started using a planner. Between the two I always had time for writing. It turned out time was just the tip of the iceberg. I would sit down to write, and suddenly I had the deep need to clean my closets, do the three dishes sitting by the sink, wipe out all the kitchen drawers or organize my socks by color. Worthy pursuits, but not the task at hand. This phenomenon plagues many creative people. No matter how much I love to write, or how much somebody else loves to paint, sing or dance, when it comes time to practice it on your own on a regular basis, you just don't want to.

Creative people love spontaneity and inspiration. We want to do our thing when we're in the mood, or when we have a great idea. People aren't in the mood to create about 75% of the time, and great ideas aren't a dime a dozen. I will never become a master of my craft by practicing only when I feel like it, and I certainly can't make a living that way. Creatives are good at spontaneity and inspiration, that's why we're creative people, but what we need is discipline. The ability to do something faithfully whether I want to or not, because it's a good thing to do, even if I'm not enjoying it.

There's no reason to make discipline harder than it has to be, and I found five ways to  harness inspiration when it comes to make writing every day easier for me. I suspect they could do the same for you and your craft as well.

1. Always work when your inspired (within reason).

Inspiration is fun, and often produces a great end result. I'd be a fool not to use it when I have it. If I'm feeling inspired I drop whatever I'm doing if possible and get right to work. I might have to rearrange my schedule a bit, but in the end I've done my days writing joyfully.

2. Work at least five days a week.

I treat my writing like a real job, because I want it to be my real job. I didn't always feel like going in to work at other jobs all the time. I just had to do it. So if I'm not in the mood I tell myself I don't have a choice and then use the following rules to make it easier to keep going, and easier to go back to it the next day.

3. Work where you are inspired, or at least attracted.

When I sit down to write I usually have a few scenes jotted down to work on. I choose the one that appeals to me most at the time. I might not be jumping up and down to do my work, but this usually gets me exited about it by the end.

4. Work until your enjoying yourself, and quit while your still having fun.

Sometimes none of the tasks I need to do are the least bit appealing. I start somewhere and keep going until I get into it. When I think to myself, “why was I avoiding this, this isn't that bad,” or even, “this is great” I keep working, but when it starts to wear off, I quit right away. I don't work as well once the fun is gone and if I make myself keep doing it what I remember the next time I sit down to work is how miserable it was. If I stop while it's still fun, what I remember is the fun.

5. Bribe yourself.

Sometimes I just have to treat myself like I'm a four-year old going to the dentist. I have two ways to bribe myself. First I make everything around what I'm doing as awesome as I can. I make myself tea or hot coco or coffee, I sit somewhere nice, I wear clothes I like, and I'll get myself a snack. Second I promise myself if I do this thing I don't like, I will do a creative thing I do like. For instance, if I have to edit, I'll promise myself If I edit for one hour, I'll spend some time writing a chapter of my next book. It works when nothing else will. I have no regrets.

So there you have it. May your art be disciplined.