The approach of each New Year presents a Polaroid capture of the personal and professional hills and valleys preceding it, along with a screenshot of the potential promise ahead in the scaling of new goals and forgotten dreams. However, the strategizing towards those goals can quickly become overshadowed by a punitive outlook towards the discipline required to realize them. In a world where creative and professional success has been equated to and associated with struggle and deprivation, how can artists and creatives embrace and embody discipline as an asset and avoid being hampered by restrictive resolutions?
For artists and creatives, one of the keys to successfully embracing a lifestyle of discipline lies in their focus on their relationship with their craft. As with most relationships—regardless of context—communication, honesty, mutual interest, attraction, transparency and consistent engagement lead to long-term success. Conversely, relationships based in resentment, fear of circumstance, material gain or merit approval eventually lead to a premature end—and in the case of artists, often result in the short-circuiting of creative and professional goals at the outset of the New Year. As with fitness and health goals, the self-disciplinary action of diet and exercise serve to realign and strengthen the relationship between the body and self: mind, soul and spirit. In parallel, through self-discipline, an artist can further cultivate their relationship with their craft through continued study, practice, mentorship and self-affirmation.
In the case of artists and creatives, it can be argued that their relationship with their craft or the study of any art form—or discipline—is a discipleship to that genre. In the earlier scenes of the recent biopic, Bolden, based on the life of jazz innovator King Bolden (Charles “Buddy” Bolden), Bolden, as portrayed by Gary Carr, patiently introduces the tenets of modern jazz to his inner circle--a new language centered “on the four”—the immediate understanding of which was only made available to those who were in direct relationship with him.
A similar relationship dynamic is paralleled within scripture in the relationship between Christ and his disciples. Christ regularly ministered to the masses delivering the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven in the form of parables, however, because of the disciples’ relationship with Christ, as opposed to the casual observer, they were able to further access his counsel and understanding, as Christ stated in the following passage:
“The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them—The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand.”
Because of the disciples’ proximity to Christ and their relationship and communion with him, they were provided direct access to Christ and his wisdom, as opposed to observers with whom he always spoke in parable. In parallel, through an artist’s discipleship and/or relationship with their craft, they ultimately make themselves available to the inner workings, history and intimacies of their craft.
This level of relationship is also illustrated in Christ's explanation of the well-known Parable of the Sower, which follows the above interchange between Christ and his disciples and further illustrates the impact of discipleship. The parable follows the story of a farmer sowing his seed in a field—in the process, the seed falls into various conditions of soil with varying outcomes: Some seed falls unprotected, and is quickly eaten by birds. Some falls on rocky ground and sprouts, but the new growth dies due to its roots being exposed. Some seed falls along thorn bushes, which later grow and choke the plants. Others fall into good soil and grow into full harvest. The parable serves as a metaphor highlighting the challenges for some on hearing the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven, as well as highlighting their relationship with themselves and their personal and earthly priorities. For artists and creatives, the parable also serves as a metaphor to highlight the importance of maintaining an unobstructed, unfettered relationship with individual craft--and the viability of their soil--through self-discipline of mind, body and spirit.
For artists and creatives, discipline ultimately finds its roots in the cultivation of their relationship with their craft through practice, study and mentorship in all its available forms—through live mentors, books or podcasts. In making themselves vulnerable to their craft and doing the work to nurture their better half through quality time spent with their chosen instrument, artists and creatives increase their knowledge, wisdom, and expertise towards the shaping of effective creativity.