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Creativity Requires Discipline

 article about creativiity

This article belongs to BUSINESS MONTH: Creativity theme.


The first experience of sex with another person often does not go as well as fantasy may predict. However, with a little love, some self-discipline, and a lot of creative practice, sex can become a fantastic part of life.

Real creativity in life is possible if a person is smart, well educated, and able to think independently. Most important of all, however, is self-discipline. Some people seem to think that a creative act springs spontaneously from the mind, but this only happens for some minds, from minds that have practiced discipline. Discipline is the foundation of creativity.

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The first experience of sex with another person often does not go as well as fantasy may predict.
Recently I head a woman read a poem that she wrote. It was a series of sentences arranged in lines that looked like poetry. None of the usual poetic devices were present: no rhyme, no meter, no alliteration, no metaphor, etc. When she was finished, I asked her who her favorite poet might be. I got a blank stare in return. She apparently was not much of a poetry reader and could not name any well-known poet. I suspect she could not have defined a sonnet or any other poetic form.

Of course modern poets often avoid the traditional forms, but not without having first studied the classics and perhaps even having written traditional forms.

If you make a systematic study of poetry—a discipline, if you will—does that make you less creative, less able to write original poems, less able to break the old rules? Some people seem to think so. Poetry, however, like sex or any other craft or skill, has a discipline, a history, and even what we could call a technology. Every major poet I ever read came from this traditional poetic background. Most famous poets, of course, are highly original in their work, but they got that way not because they ignored traditional forms, but because they mastered them and were able to go on to new accomplishments.

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Real creativity in life is possible if a person is smart, well educated, and able to think independently.
When we hear a great musician—perhaps a violinist, organist, or singer—we say that person has creative talent. They may have been born with potential talent, but years of daily practice brought them to perfection. Without that discipline they would be amateurs.

Years of discipline are required to become an architect, lawyer, physicist, physician, or astronomer. However, even with long discipline many professional people are markedly uncreative. It does seem a paradox to place self-discipline at the foundation of spontaneous creativity. For some, of course, years of hard work seem to be wasted; they remain superficial and uncreative copy cats. Self-discipline, as necessary as it may be, is only one important element of creativity.

Charles Darwin embarked on a long and difficult sea journey around the world in order to study all forms of life. He collected specimens, carefully mounted them, and made notes and drawings. Of course his theory of evolution was a hugely creative act, but its foundation lay in his willingness to pursue a disciplined path of discovery. His grand theory was perhaps less an act of creation than a conclusion forced upon him by the data his discipline helped him to collect.

Thomas Edison tried many possible filaments while developing the electric light bulb. Through systematic discipline he discovered that tungsten made the best bulb. Today, of course, other creative engineers have made even more effective kinds of lighting.
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Creative people are not afraid of being wrong as they follow a path of invention.

Creative people are not afraid of being wrong as they follow a path of invention. They are usually intelligent. They can see a need for something where others do not. They can bring together novel elements and follow unexpected possibilities. They can ignore the status quo and ignore established authority. Above all, I think, creativity calls for self-discipline, and when we follow a disciplined path, a creative result is often simply unavoidable.


(Julian I. Taber, Ph.D. is author of Addictions Anonymous: Outgrowing Addiction with a Universal, Secular Program of Self-Development.
ISBN 978-1-60145-647-2. To view the Table of Contents, sample chapters, or to order, go to: http://www.booklocker.com/books/3717.html)




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