Reframing Our Relationship with Discipline

I can hear the groan even on mute during a recent Zoom meeting with fellow tapestry weavers and members of the Weaver’s Guild of Minnesota.  We’re choosing our theme for our next Sunday evening gathering, coming up in March.  The discussion prompt I’ve just tossed on the table is on creating a daily practice and building good habits as a tapestry weaver.

“I have so many ideas, I just lack the discipline to do them all!” one member laments with a guilty snicker and obverted eyes.

How many times has your inner critic hurled at you, “Well, you could be good at this, but you’re not disciplined enough” ??

It is unfortunate that our concept of discipline has become as twisted as has our understanding of what an artist is.  Let’s untangle that a bit and see what we can learn.

The word discipline shares the same Latin root as disciple, which connotes study and knowledge.  To be a disciple actually translates as being a student, not being a follower.  Discipline is in relation to the act of being a student, just like disciplines can be used to mean branches of study.

If we take the attitude of being a student of what we love, rather than being a soldier, I find the journey much more enjoyable.  We don’t necessarily have to know where we’re going, but we’re on the trail.  We’re curious.  We’re asking questions and seeking answers.

What are the attributes of this being-a-student-ness, rather than dogged soldiery we should embrace?

  • Dedication to the topic of study
  • Seeking advice from teachers/mentors
  • Researching and asking questions
  • Trying out hypotheses
  • Emulating masters until we find our own footing
  • Pursuing the truth and interconnections
  • Contextualizing the information you’re uncovering
  • Cycling between study and practice (praxis)

As you carry forward on this journey of our creative practices, please refrain from flogging yourself as being not good enough along the way.  Instead, stay the eager student, stay curious, stay engaged.  Ask big questions and chase after them.  Try out concepts in small places like your journal or on the biggest piece of paper you can find.

The journey awaits.  Let’s go.