Discipline, Determination and other dreadful words that start with the letter D


Art is exhausting.

Let me tell you – art is exhausting.



To be an artist you need to think and feel with intense emotion and dedication and then translate your heart and soul to the average non-artist who is too preoccupied with why your art doesn’t make sense – they think about the works instead of experiencing the works.

Do you know why, so many people fantasize but never actually become artists? Because it’s damn scary that’s why! We don’t idolize cocaine fueled rockstars,  famously suicidal painters or happily hedonistic hip hop artists because of their celebrity and scandalous lifestyles (at least not in the beginning); we idolize them because they have balls.  They get up there and they command, not demand respect.  They have presence, they have sexual charm, they have courage.

But without discipline and drive and determination (oh my!) artists can implode and ironically by being so open, so giving, so vulnerable – by being the very things they need to be in order to fulfill the sense of esteem and meaning in their lives – they lose themselves.

Artists need incredible discipline and self restraint balanced with freedom of self expression and experimentation.  This is no easy task.  To make things more interesting, many artists have supplementary jobs (what the non-artist would refer to as a “day job” although we artists do work, in the afternoon, mid morning, evenings and even wee morning hours as well).  Attempt to do all of this mentally and emotionally fulfilling/draining work and work a full time job at the same time – it can be an energy sucker.

Quil4 has done a lovely job of having a single post every month – I’m trying to get back on the 1 post every 2 weeks band wagon.  It’s not the frequency of the activity – it’s the persistence and doggedness of seeing something through.

I’ve been working on a 5 song – a  5 song EP for 2 years now – I’m almost done….so close! But the closer you get to completing it you start to wonder – what the hell am I doing?!  Why has this taken so long? What is the point again?  That’s when determination kicks in and the questions morph into: Why have I pushed through for so long? What compels me to continue forward? What is the next step?  Artists – we need to have that discipline, that determination, that drive:  whether a project takes two days, or twenty years as long as you complete it and do so with some intention – you will find success.  Now granted – there is of course the little business voice in the background also saying – so….2 years eh….at some point you’ll want to see a return on your investment and possibly start generating some revenue from your works specifically in the hopes of becoming independent of your supplementary job. Well – duh – of course silly.  Seeing a project through to completion also means being flexible – it’s taken me 2 years to get to where I am because I didn’t want to be sitting in a pool of debt to see my works come to life.  A rational decision – balanced by the experimentation and freedom of the works themselves.

Everyone is working hard these days regardless of what they do.  But if you think your artist friends are just dreaming madly into the night sky – hopefully you’ll think twice about that and possibly offer them a cupcake and some tea. Be kind to your artist friends! And Artists – be kind to yourselves! Remember – every little step helps -every blurry photo – every wrong note – every writer’s block – with every mistake, you learn –  with every mistake you are moving forward.

4 responses »

  1. I agree, art is exhausting! It requires a balancing act that is rarely easy to achieve. The D for discipline is especially hard for me. I often feel as if I have to be in a particular state of mind or emotionally located somewhere specifically in order to produce something “good”…but I’m learning that I have to learn to control the process more so I’m not held hostage to waiting for those ‘magic moments.’ On that note I think I’m going to have a cupcake and a cup of tea.

    • That discipline part is particularly tricky – I agree Quil4. I wonder if bankers or lawyers or engineers have that as well – a day where they just don’t feel like adding numbers, or reading precedents or building bridges – but they do it anyway. The one HUGE difference of course being the fact that they get paid crazy money to do so.

      If you get paid to be disciplined – is it really discipline?

      Have you found any particular routines that help you produce? In music we have jam sessions (which are free flowy kinda doodling times to practice skills or brainstorm new song ideas); rehearsals (more structured with set songs to perfect – sometimes with an end goal of a performance); and then of course performance (onstage infront of an audience).

      Is there any equivalent set of routines for writers?

  2. Aaah, B…you make one heck of a cheerleader (in addition to your myriad other talents)! Being a recent (and continuous) near-drowning victim in the corporate seas of cashflow, contracts and invoices…your words are a kind and soothing balm to my harried ears. Hahaha…way to mix metaphors fstop10!! (a drowning victim with harried ears…just shows you how far gone I am).

    I will endeavour to keep your words in mind on those days when it is exceedingly tough to feel accomplished while creeping forward at a snail’s pace. You are right…even the smallest of movement counts.

    And quill4 – your quest to control the process is exactly what I am learning to do. Performing on command (most often my own command)…but sometimes for a couple of bucks too. Rather a gratifying sensation when you can MAKE the creativity flow.

    Just a few weeks ago I shot a wedding on a Saturday after a harrowing work week. I fell asleep on the subway on the way to my meeting spot, luckily didn’t miss my stop, then moped along to my meeting point with my boss. Upon arrival at the venue I felt completely bereft of inspiration – couldn’t see a damn thing I felt like shooting.

    A wave of panic struck – I had the whole night ahead…and had to pull off some important shots! (even as the second shooter, I am expected to get the shot). I simply clapped the viewfinder to my eye and kept shooting details on tables – grabbed a couple of easy ones…and suddenly I was OK – I could “see” again. Sounds cheesy, but it worked.


    • fstop10!! So lovely to hear from you!

      Passion + Pay – the sliding scale of happiness. It’s such a brutal balance – you do exactly what you love with little outside interference but get paid zip – or you get paid to produce to a specific set of circumstances or criteria. This is of course an exaggeration – but it feels like many artists live on one side of the spectrum.

      What I really liked about your story is the persistence; you understood that something had to come of your time and you were going to put your best foot forward. You worked through the “uninspiring moments” (which sometimes can be a lot of life no?) – that’s what makes you a professional – not the money – it’s the professionalism and the dedication to the craft inspite of the fact that you are now also being paid.

      I hope that you’ve also still be able to grab a photos of your own interests – maybe we can get a sneak peek at some of your new works? Are you thinking of any new collections? The animals of South Africa collection we have online has gotten some great hits!

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