Carey Wallace has an excellent article in Cardis called “On Discipline.” It’s about the relationship between a disciplined life in general (and specifically a disciplined spiritual life) and a disciplined creative life. Looking for answers to why you’re too busy, blocked, or unproductive in creative work? I am. Here’s a portion below, but read her entire post here.
There is no such thing, we discovered, as disciplining one corner of a life. There are only disciplined or undisciplined lives.
Let me be clear. Too many artists already raise artificial barriers to creation: they can’t write, or think, or paint, they claim, unless they’re seated at a pristine desk, with southern light, perfect silence, and a dozen sharpened pencils all pointed west. These are not aids to creation, or marks of real discipline: they are a group of excuses not to create if the conditions are not met. I am not saying, “Don’t bother to create unless your whole life is in perfect order. I am saying, “Creation will require your whole life.”
For years, I had seen my early commitment to prayer and writing as separate concerns. Now I wondered if my spiritual disciplines and my creative disciplines had been more deeply bound than I knew. The actions of discipline are simple, but the barriers to discipline are spiritual, rooted in anxiety, despair, and fear. And approaching them as if they’re simple matters of practicality will only result in the failure that most artists already know so well.
All spiritual problems are creative problems, and all creative problems are spiritual problems. Doubt, depression, lust, rage, greed: because the artist herself is the mechanism of creation, none of these things can be separated from an artist’s work when they’re present in the artist. And an artist’s failure to work is rarely mechanical—fingers that fail to curl around a pen or a brush—but spiritual: a fear that has rendered them artistically blind or deaf. The solution to them all is to draw closer to God, the source of all order, rest, and freedom, and of every image, sound, and word.
I no longer draw a distinction between my spiritual and creative disciplines.