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I went for a walk this morning with a dear friend. The wind blew cold and gusty down the railroad tracks and we fought for breath as we caught up on our lives. My friend is also an artist and writer. Like me, she is involved in multiple projects, pulled in a variety of directions, and often frustrated by her inability to focus on just one thing.

For most creatives, this is a challenge. We’re great at ideas, vision, and inspiration, but we often suck at implementation. Like a five year old on a soccer field, we lose interest in the game when something else catches our attention and sparks our imagination — a butterfly, the way the sunlight makes patterns when we squint our eyes, a dragon shaped cloud.

Often we don’t finish, or start, because its not in our nature. Developing the discipline and skills necessary to produce the work is really hard.

The truth is, inspiration is fickle. The only way to coax it consistently is to work consistently. The only way to get good is to practice and this is not what comes naturally to us. Ugh! Tedium! Delayed gratification! Why would we practice when there are so many wonderful distractions?

The success of any business depends on the right combination of vision and implementation. In my business world, I have a partner who excels at the day to day requirements. He loves them. If he didn’t, our business would have never gotten off the ground. In my creative world, I have to develop and maintain a day to day discipline for myself.

Here are five ways I do that:

  1. If I don’t think a piece is good enough after a couple of revisions, I set it aside and start the next one. Laboring over a work for extended periods of time not only kills the work, it kills my drive. 
  2. I work every day. Sometimes it’s a blog post. Others it’s a painting, a sculpture, an article, or a fiction piece. No matter what, I spend at least some time every, single day, making something. 
  3. I get feedback from people who are willing to be honest with me and I listen, especially when the first thing I do in response is defend. If I have to defend it, it probably isn’t good enough to stand on its own. In addition, when I ask for feedback, I also commit myself to completing the work. Otherwise, I’ve wasted their time and am embarrassed when I have nothing new to report. I may not take all the recommendations, but I don’t want to let them down. 
  4. When I get stuck in one media, I switch to another. Changing the way my brain wraps around a problem always helps me solve it. If it’s a sculpture that’s bothering me, I write. If it’s the writing, I work with my hands. Without fail, it gets the juices flowing again. 
  5. I give myself deadlines. They’re reasonable, attainable and I stick to them. One of my favorite tools is Google Calendar. I set it up to send me reminders that keep me on track. When my computer yells at me, I’m inclined to listen.

What are some ways you stay disciplined? I love to hear them