Light Your Fire

January 11, 2018

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature... I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can."

 

-George Bernard Shaw

 

At least half of my education as a young, independent creator has been about how to light my own fire-- how to foster hunger. I have to write constantly if I want to learn story, build a body of work, and create something worth a damn. Use that muscle or away with it. However, because there is no infrastructure or external accountability, the type you find at school or in an office, I have to build, with the help of my collaborator, a mindset that keeps me alert and eager. This is a side of storytelling that I failed to consider when in school dreaming about creative work. I thought hunger came like water from a faucet: just turn the knob when you're ready. But complacency, the little fiend, is a hunter that closes in as soon as you turn your back on it.

 

Discipline is not romantic. It doesn't fit the myth of the feverish, ever-inspired artist, but I think it's something creatives have to master early. For some it comes easier than for others. I didn't know that I was the type of person that needs a routine-- wake up early, exercise, drink a cup of coffee, and write before checking email, facebook, etc if any work at all is to get done. I didn't know how painfully tempting it is to do laundry or vacuum or run the dishwasher instead of writing (and, when I finish writing, nothing sounds worse than doing any of those things?). I didn't know that inspiration is not something to wait around for; it's something that comes and goes during the time set aside for creating. I wish this was more a part of what we talk about when we talk about artistry.

 

So the question for you is: how do you build self-discipline? How do you overcome the force of resistance, the one that screams for instant gratification, and tackle the purpose you recognize to be a mighty one? George Bernard Shaw writes about his life belonging to the whole community... I think that's where the answer lies. You have to step outside of your mind's echo chamber and find a way to work not for yourself, but for the community, a friend, a lover, a cause. Something external and mighty! 

 

 

 

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