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Barbara Bowen : Creativity: Discipline or Willingness?

Creativity: Discipline or Willingness?

By Barbara Bowen

This creativity Consultant teaches that when it comes to creativity, the word discipline can present problems for our art career. Webster defines the word in these terms: a systematic method to obtain obedience; submission to rules and authority; punishment intended to train or correct. As a Creativity Consultant, I find that for my clients — whether artists or in other ways deeply involved with the creative process — discipline is like taking a dose of castor oil. Admonishing themselves into action, they "force it down" in order to accomplish our art career goals.

One of my tasks as a Creativity Consultant is to help my clients learn that 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 find help through varying degrees of resistance in order to reach creative momentum, which carries us into that delicious natural high we call "flow."

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 us in our tracks? I think it's because discipline is often applied in opposition to resistance. When we oppose our resistance, we compound tension and perfectionism. When we focus on outcomes in our art career, we miss the joy of creating in the moment. The discipline that was intended to bring mastery and success in our career, 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 to art career goals. Willingness can be cultivated, with patience. It takes a little time, but the rewards are great, indeed, as we feel tensions loosen and the creative joy increased.

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 meditation in motion, the awareness mind accepts resistance with no struggle. Ironically, acceptance will loosen and melt it. We push nothing away. We gently shift our focus back to the task at hand, wasting no time in 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 art career goals becomes easier. Resistance is replaced by more and more calm, and more flow. We begin to recover long lost pangs of creative excitement when we wake in the morning. We define the word "success" on our own terms, enabled to take action, focus, and let go of outcomes. We surrender and engage with our creative art form or other activity, moment by moment. If we stay loyal to this practice, one day we will notice that the discipline associated with our art career has become our willingness. •

© 2003 Barbara Bowen

Barbara BowenBarbara Bowen owns Gateways Coaching and helps artists and other professionals to master the creative process, build momentum, and take sensible risks to move careers to the next level. More »

6/13/05