Currently I’m participating in the Writing and Journal Keeping weekend at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. As I’ve seen in other writer’s gatherings that I’ve participated in, a major topic of conversation is discipline. Many writers feel like they don’t have enough of it to gain traction with their writing practice; others say they have too much discipline, and end up feeling that their writing is often compulsive rather than free.
So we’ll be talking about discipline a lot today: what it is, why it’s so elusive, how to befriend it and embrace it rather than fear it or regard it as some sort of burden, and what to do when it goes into hyperdrive and feels like a compulsion.
As I’ve reflected on all this, I’m reminded of a wonderful sign I saw in the studio of two jewelers I knew back in Tennessee, Shipp and Judith Webb. Shipp and Judith made handcrafted earrings that they sold at various craft fairs. By all accounts their business was a success, and they have always been heroes of mine as people who successfully integrated their artistic vision with the nuts and bolts of making a living. And so I’ve always thought that this sign, hanging in their studio, had to encapsulate at least a part of their success. The sign said, simply enough,
Knowing What You Want
It’s been over fifteen years since I saw that sign, and that remains the single best definition of discipline I’ve ever come across. It has marvelous implications not only for our careers and our chosen creative pursuits, but for the spiritual life as well.