Discipline is one of those things we all know we need, but cannot seem to get into. Like 8 glasses of water a day. Like fresh air and frequent breaks. Like however many servings of fruits and veggies we’re supposed to have nowadays.
But discipline, like regular exercise, stretches the muscles. And when it is creative discipline, it is our creative muscles. It’s fun to watch creative muscles grow.
Sometimes we benefit from what Eugene Peterson has called ‘a long obedience in the same direction’. Sometimes we need sprints.
Last month I tried a sprint. I wrote (almost) 30 poems in as many days. One a day. Write it, post it and move on. No matter what.
This sprint worked for a few reasons.
First and foremost, I was not alone. I partnered with a friend, Edward Van Vliet. I was held accountable.
Second, I made it manageable. The poems didn’t have to be any length (yes, there were a few haikus). They didn’t have to be great. Even good. They just had to be.
Third, I gave myself limits. I only wrote on my iPhone. I’d never tried that before and likely wouldn’t do it again, but the limits helped me get through the month. Because I had my phone with me, I could write while waiting in line, or picking up the kids from school or sitting parked outside the liquor store. These were the moments I could afford so I used them. I only gave myself about 15 minutes to a half hour tops. I could fit that into the cracks of my day. I didn’t do a lot of editing.
That sprint last month is not sustainable for me, but it accellerated my growth. I feel like a better writer today. I likely am.
But now the sprint is over and I need to discover a new rhythm. I’d like to write every day eventually. Something. Anything. I likely won’t start there, but I want to move towards this discipline. Not weekends, but weekdays. Not always, but most times.
I want to do this because Seth Godin says I should, and I agree. He says that knowing I need to write something down and share it with the world keeps me paying attention. I agree. Paying attention is really important. It might be the best gift that art has to offer us.
Austin Kleon is a fan of sharing something small, every day. He’s pretty great, too.
Meeting with my friend Omar last week, I learned about eustress. This is a kind of positive stress. It is the kind of stress that gets you moving forward. Gets you growing. The work deadline. The big show. The Bridge Songs performance that requires you to finish recording that album in the next four weeks. That kind of stress.
That kind of stress, Omar has learned, is positive. It is needed if we want to live life to the fullest. If we want to learn and grow and look back and say, ‘wow! I did that!’.
And I’m heading back into my daily blogging discipline. This is my eustress.
What is your eustress? How are you driving yourself forward today?
And how are you finding that equally important gift of grace?