As always, my conversations with Ryan inspire all kinds of deeper thoughts to ponder. And it’s often in my reflections after we’ve talked that the concepts we spoke of really hit home in areas of my own life. Sometimes the process of a creative can be very inward and isolating; however, it is in conversation with others that we often gain new insight into our own areas of mystery.
Self-Consciousness is the Enemy of Creative Process
The journey of creativity is one that often brings us to a place of vulnerability. It is that place of bringing stuff up from the deepest parts of ourselves and putting it on display for the world to see. And the best work we produce is the stuff that comes from an authentic place within, a place where we wholeheartedly believe in and are passionate about what we are creating. And that place is true to us today, and true to who we are right now. But how about 10 years from now?
Ryan and I spoke about looking back at art or writing we have produced a decade ago, and how it is easy to feel embarrassed over the quality or content of something we were promoting so heavily back then. We must be careful when looking back at past work because we can become so critical of it that it can actually hinder our current creative process.
Being self-conscious is the enemy of the creative process because it is a limiting belief and a cage that keeps us from being free to explore the truth of where we are today in our creativity. It can also keep us from producing interesting work.
If You Want to Create Interesting Work, Live an Interesting Life
Sometimes we can get so focused and consumed with reaching our goal of becoming a New York Times best-selling author or world-famous photographer that we forget about the journey. There are all kinds of recommendations out there for steps to take and lists to make in order to reach your goals, but if you look at anyone whom we would say has “made it”, the journey rarely looks like a prescribed path with specific and ordered steps followed. On the contrary, life throws curve balls at us and it is often in those surprise moments that new opportunities arise to move us closer to our goals that we may not have even considered.
To create interesting work, we need to have substance to create that from… and that only comes from living an interesting life. If all we ever do is hide away in a room to write or always look at the world through the lens of a camera, we are missing the whole point of LIVING the life we have to live. It is through our experiences in life that the creative substance deep within us can develop and grow into beautiful expressions of art. And taking time to live and enjoy life requires discipline.
How Discipline Shapes Destiny
When we hear the word discipline, we often picture military-like structure and extreme commitment to a task. But don’t confuse the idea of discipline with the concept of being completely consumed by your art. Discipline is not about being hyper-focused; it is about keeping a balance. True discipline is a wholistic concept that stretches across every area of our lives: from our creative process to our physical health, our relationships and our emotional well-being.
There are also different forms of discipline, some that come from the self and others that rely on those around us. My wife has been one of the most valuable key players in my discipline, by holding me accountable to keeping a balance in my life. Without her reminders, it would be easy for me to neglect other areas of my life that I need to keep healthy. We need both. The internal motivators for discipline as well as the external.
The key is to dig down to your core and find what truly motivates you. What is the “why” to what you are doing with your life, with your art? Once you’ve established the key motivators for you, the structures of “what” you need to do to reach your goals have that much more strength behind them. The “how” you will do it comes down to discipline. How are the things that motivate you going to keep you disciplined to do what you need to do? And who are the people around you that will hold you accountable beyond yourself? It could be your editors, publishers, partner, parents or colleagues. True discipline comes both from the inside and the outside. It is a discipline of both time and boundaries.
What are You Saying “No” to?
There are only so many minutes in a day and so many hours in our lives… yet if we want to be serious about our art or our craft, we need time to be creative. This is one of the most difficult aspects of being an artist: carving out the time to create and being able to get into the zone when we have a limited amount of time to produce our work.
Some may believe that being completely consumed by your craft is the only way to be successful in your creative journey. These types of people are known as “art monsters”, as they have the freedom in their lives to create when they want, how they want and for as long as they want. The reality is, not many of us have that ability as our art may be a side hobby, or we’ve decided to get married and raise a family, or any number of other things that can take up some of our time and attention.
The fact is that time is a non-renewable resource, and every minute that passes in our lives we will never get back. And every minute we spend on one focused area means we are not spending that time in another area of importance to us. Yes, art monsters may be able to produce larger quantities of work in a shorter period of time, but that doesn’t mean that someone with another job or a family cannot create as well. The best art is created when every area of our lives is in balance and when we are being disciplined with our time and boundaries, whatever they are for us.
Balance is key. Sometimes the only way to keep a balance in your family life is to say “no” to a new project being offered to you by your manager. Sometimes it might mean saying “no” to a social event that will interfere with your most creative time in the day/night. As time is finite and limited, we must learn to say “no” to things that will take away from our balance so that we can say “yes” to the things that will fill us up and lead us towards our goals.
However long or short we talk, my conversations with Ryan are always such a pleasure, full of insight and wisdom from the past but with a modern and relevant twist. I look forward to the next time we visit and hearing the updates on his latest writings.
In the meantime, be sure to check out his newest book, the second in a series of four, called Discipline is Destiny.
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