The dance between inspiration and discipline

“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”  – a quote often attributed to William Faulkner.

Two views exist on how to create art. The first is to do it with ruthless regularity based on a fixed schedule. The deadline is our master here. The second is to do it whenever inspiration strikes. Thereby, the muse that holds the artist’s hand takes precedence over all else.

Great art has been created both ways – Stephen King wrote 2000 words every single day, including Christmas. Miles Davis and band recorded the greatest jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue, in merely 9 hours of inspired studio time. How do we reconcile discipline with bursts of inspiration? Is there a way to harness the synergy between regular practice and sporadic inspiration?

Back when I started this blog, I had one idea which led to my first post. In that moment, I never thought that I could sustain this habit for a year, one idea per day. But once I started with a commitment to post daily, the ideas showed up, one after another.

However, the flow rate isn’t consistent. Some days I have several ideas and some ideas are better than others. Once I decided to write daily though, the inflow of ideas, on average, has always been more than one idea per day.

Therefore, our bursts of inspiration come with a frequency that matches our schedule. Inspiration and discipline need each other to blossom into creativity. Inspiration without discipline can dry up, giving way to excuses such as a writer’s block.  Discipline without inspiration turns into a meaningless ritual, like a priest who mumbles prayers without knowing their meaning.

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