“There is often an assumption made that creativity is an unbounded force, flowing freely and continually to the artist. The canvas is never blank, the page never empty, the clay never unformed. The artist never experiences boredom or tedium with regards to her craft, but instead experiences the effortless flow of creative energy each and every day. There is little need for discipline, repetition, or structure in the artist’s world, or so we assume.
In contrast to these assumptions, most artists will tell you that creativity is something that must be practiced—exercised, as it were, just like any muscle. In fact, creativity achieves its greatest potential when bounded by discipline, and a tireless commitment to practice, routine, and structure. The painter, Wayne Thiebaud, once said that “an artist has to train his responses more than other people do. He has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom.”(1) Rather than being opposed to creativity, discipline provides the conduit through which creative engagement grows and develops freely.
It is not difficult to understand why many would falsely believe that creativity is by nature undisciplined,when many assume that structure and routine are signs of a lack of creativity, or worse, are signs of boredom. Boring routine appears to be antithetical to the creative life. But as author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a notebook entry, “Boredom is not an ‘end product’ but an important and necessary ‘stage in life and art,’ acting like a filter that allows ‘the clear product to emerge.'”(2)” — A Slice of Infinity, RZIM, 8 Feb 2011
(1) As cited in Clint Brown, Artist to Artist: Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past & Present (Corvalis, OR: Jackson Creek Publishers, 1998), 87.
(2) As cited in Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 41.