The act of creation is as much about discipline as a good idea or the talent to execute it. Occasionally, a lovely person offers praise in terms of self-depreciation (“I could never make something like this!”), and my response has become a mantra. Yes you can. Anyone can with practice and desire. It takes discipline to practice regularly, be your chosen medium paint and canvas, needle and thread, or words on the page.
Sometimes that requirement of discipline can be damaging, depending on how you view yourself and your creative process. It’s not uncommon to fall into the trap of guilt and punishment. It goes without saying that improvement is impossible without practice.* But lack of improvement is not a punishment for not practicing ‘often enough’ or ‘hard enough’ or ‘smart enough.’ Sometimes we have to parent ourselves, sure, but the parents who gushed over our bad poetry and stuck our scribbles on the fridge would never tell us that our art deserves to suck and we should feel bad about that.
Building skill, spending hours at our craft should come from a willingness; a positive core. That’s not to say you won’t occasionally come to the guitar or the canvas or the track, feeling like you’d rather be eating onion rings and watching Netflix and you’re really fucking tired of not meeting your own standards of ‘good’ here. But unless your mental processes can take guilt and self-depreciation and turn it into positive motivation (and if you can, please, take me as your padawan), don’t start from a place of penance. You don’t deserve to suffer because you’ve been some definition of ‘lazy.’ You don’t deserve to hate what you make because you didn’t make time to practice.
You’re practicing now. So practice now.
Don’t practice two weeks ago when you had to work two 12-hour days, or your knees hurt every fucking day while the air pressure bounced like a racquetball, or you felt too sad to do anything but stand in the shower, or you needed to bake a cake for a family picnic.
Your feet are on the track today. Your brush is in the paint this moment. Your hands are on the keyboard right now.
Remember that you’re practicing this thing because doing the thing gives you pleasure – and doing the thing better than you did before will also give you pleasure. Today’s work is not penance. You DO need to struggle, because challenge is part of the game. You DON’T need to suffer – mentally or physically.
*Unless you plan to make a crossroads deal – in which case I recommend evaluating your priorities first. You only have one soul; don’t barter it for the ability to bake cupcakes that will make foodies weep unless that’s what you REALLY want for, like, forever. Otherwise, when you realize you really wanted to be a violin virtuoso, you’ll have to get there the hard way. If that happens, this post will be here. And I’ll take one of those cupcakes.