Friday, June 16, 2006

Discipline Is Love In Practice

The last couple of months have been an exercise in re-examining every 15 minute block of time of my 24/7 schedule, every assumption about what is and isn’t necessary and reassigning priorities to reflect my goals. Most of my posts in the last six weeks or so have been about this experience. I have learned--and in many cases re-learned--valuable lessons but I would not ask another busy writer to read those 10-15,000 words of meandering musing and wimpy whining. I’ve been hoping to distil it down into an essay of about one tenth the length. Meanwhile, a post over at Write Stuff on the related theme of goal-setting and discipline for writer’s, inspired me to leave a comment based on my recent experience. I spent so long composing that comment, I ran out of time to compose a separate blog post but I realized that I had managed to distill the last six weeks of angst induced insight into two succinct paragraphs that contained all of the main points of the lessons visited on me:

Let's not forget that discipline shares the same etymology as disciple. A disciple is one who follows a discipline out of love not fear. Love either for the teacher/exemplar, the ideology or the craft. If you allow discipline to be imposed from without or within by a rigid taskmaster the love is corrupted into something demonic. And even discipline requires flexibility.

Discipline can be custom designed to fit the exigencies of your unique life circumstances. A fact about myself that has remained stable for over forty years is that I cannot snap to attention upon awakening. So, like the poster I left the comment for, I always used to feel like a failure when I attempted to apply the advice of seasoned writers to make time for the writing by getting up an hour early to write before other duties intruded. Some people need more time than others between first opening their eyes and feeling like all the lights are on inside. There is no sense in calling yourself a failure because you can’t be task-oriented while your brain straddles the waking and dreaming worlds. That slow-to-simmer time could actually be a gift you don't want to kick in the mouth by accusing it of laziness. It seems, in my experience, to be a source of creative ideas and energy that can be nurtured. A schedule designed to make time for writing must take into consideration this, or any other, idiosyncrasy as well as those can’t-get-out-of duties related to work, family or community.

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