“For years, I had seen my early commitment to prayer and writing as separate concerns. Now I wondered if my spiritual disciplines and my creative disciplines had been more deeply bound than I knew. The actions of discipline are simple, but the barriers to discipline are spiritual, rooted in anxiety, despair, and fear. And approaching them as if they’re simple matters of practicality will only result in the failure that most artists already know so well.
… And an artist’s failure to work is rarely mechanical—fingers that fail to curl around a pen or a brush—but spiritual: a fear that has rendered them artistically blind or deaf. The solution to them all is to draw closer to God, the source of all order, rest, and freedom, and of every image, sound, and word.
I no longer draw a distinction between my spiritual and creative disciplines. I don’t claim this as a fresh practice, but confess it as a novice only now beginning to grasp a fundamental truth that I’ve long practiced without knowing its name. In some ways, this insight changes nothing. Both spiritual and creative disciplines still require strength and courage, and a high tolerance for loneliness, boredom and pain. But in one fundamental way, removing the distinction between creative and spiritual disciplines changes everything. I no longer flatter myself that I work alone, or that my strength is my own. I lean instead on God, who has been there all along. And that releases me from the very real fear that I will someday come to the end of myself: either my own limited ideas, or my own limited strength. Instead I have a bottomless well to draw on and an endless universe to spin through, renewing itself so fast that my limited mind can only ever capture it in glimpses and fragments.
These excerpts are from an excellent article, by Carey Wallace, on discipline that I found a few weeks ago in Comment Magazine. I feel I have been painfully slow at learning what discipline looks like in post-college, 9-5 life, and this piece on the linkages between spiritual and creative discipline was very thought-provoking. I highly, highly recommend reading it in full.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”