Inspiration is Overrated: 6 Ways to Cash in on Creative Discipline

“Inspiration is for amateurs.”

I learned that from Dave Barry, who, last time I checked, wrote over twenty bestselling books and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Guess he was right.

HERE’S MY QUESTION: How can you create more than enough creative ideas so that you NEVER need to worry about running out?

ONE-WORD ANSWER: Discipline.

Discipline is the hallmark of inspiration.
Discipline is the foundation of all creativity.
Discipline is the four-letter word that guarantees success.
Discipline is the directed willpower that will eliminate artistic blocks.
Discipline is the differentiator that will set you apart from all other creative professionals.

Here are six ways to cash in on creative discipline:

1. Art requires structure. For that reason, you need to be “due at the page.” Or the canvas. Or the studio. Or the wheel. Whatever your primary creative venue is, commit to the schedule of “being due” at same time, every day.

Even if your mother in law is in town and wants to get together for coffee at 7:30am, you tell her, “Sorry Phyllis, I’m booked up during that time slot every morning. Can we make it 10:30?” It’s all about setting boundaries.

Because if you don’t set them for yourself, other people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. And it will be your fault. As Julia Cameron explained in Walking in this World:

“It is impossible to say yes to our art and ourselves until we learn to say no to others. People don’t mean us harm, but they do harm us when they ask for more than we can give. When we do ahead and give it to them, we are harming ourselves as well.”

Remember: Choose your creative time wisely. Let nobody steal it from you. What’s your creative schedule?

2. “Finding” the time doesn’t work. “Find” comes from the Old English term findan. Which means, “To come upon, alight on.” Which implies a search. Which means it’s possible that you might NOT find the time to create.

“Make” comes from the Frisian term makia, which means, “To build.” As in “BUILD into your schedule.” As in “BUILD your entire day around it.” Which implies a commitment. Which means it’s NOT possible that you WON’T create.

As Cameron explained in Vein of Gold, “The reason there is never enough time is because our time is not our own. We do not make it that way. Therefore, we do not experience it that way. When we believe there is “no time,” that is what we experience.”

Remember: You’re a creative ninja who sneaks in a little art at every opportunity. And you’re never too busy to create art. What did you make the time for today?

3. Patient faith, not inspiration. Creative scheduling notwithstanding, maybe nothing will come. Maybe you’ll get one measly idea all day. Maybe you’ll sit there, staring at your screen for two hours, scratching your butt – accomplishing nothing.

That’s OK. It happens to me sometimes. It’s all part of the deal. As Leonard Cohen reminded us in his amazing documentary, I’m Your Man, “You have to go to work everyday with the knowledge that you might not get it everyday.”

So, just show up anyway. Maybe it won’t be so bad. How patient and faithful are you willing to be?

4. Don’t believe your creative drought. Next, remove the term “writer’s block” from your vocabulary. It doesn’t exist anyway. Writing is an extension of thinking. You don’t have writer’s block – you have THINKER’S block.

Therefore: If you want to write more, think more. As Julia said in Finding Water, “Once we stop calling our writer’s block ‘writer’s block’ and begin using words like ‘resistance’ and ‘procrastination,’ we are suddenly no longer in rarefied territory.” What’s stopping your creative flow?

5. Don’t be so artsy fartsy. Cameron also says, “We do a disservice to ourselves is to make our work TOO special and TOO different from others. We need to normalize our days. The minute we identify with the rest of humankind, we are on the right track.”

My suggestion is to think of yourself as a blue-collar worker. Punching in, clocking out, every day. A union grunt who sports one of those work shirts with the embroidered nametag on the front. Just a working stiff, cranking out a double shift at the idea factory, trying to earn your keep to put bread on the table.

This kind of attitude humbles you and welcomes the muse to join you in the creative process. Is your big-shot artist posturing assassinating your ability to be a disciplined worker?

6. Lay a certain amount of track each day. George Carlin committed to writing twenty pages EVERY day. He did that for fifty years and went down in history as one of the greatest thinkers and comedians of all time.

Personally, I write for four hours a day. Minimum. Often times closer to seven. And when I clock out at quitting time, I always ask myself the same question: What did you write today? And if I can’t answer that question, I have failed as a writer.

The crazy thing is, people are always astonished when I share this hourly quota with them. Sometimes they’ll say, “God, do you have a life?” And I say, “Yes. I DO have a life – the life of a writer. And a writer writes. Always.” Did you hit your creative quota today?

REMEMBER: Famed poet Beckian Fritz Goldberg once said, “Discipline is the highest form of love.”

So, creativity is like breathing. All that matters is if you’re doing it NOW.

What awaits you in the refining fire of discipline?

For the list called, “49 ways to become an Idea Powerhouse,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Download a free copy of The Nametag Guy’s (unofficial) 9th book!

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“Live your name.”

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