Discipline to play

Remember when we played and played and didn’t come home until dark?

We lost ourselves making cubbies, trailing wombats, and trying to trick our friends into picking stinging nettle … (Note: I didn’t do the latter, but was a sucker when a good-looking boy handed me some ‘flowers’.)

They were heady, creative, energetic looong days that we remember wistfully. But I’m here to tell you to stop being wistful. We need to tap back into the art of play. As adults, we need to make the time, create the discipline to play.

I have quite a few friends and colleagues who insist that writing is hard. It’s not, you know. (I can almost hear your eyebrows raising ...)

At this point I’ll say that the majority of my writing is fun. Loads of fun. I feel as though I get to play with words and ideas and stories, and am well satisfied by the end of each day. But the fun stops when I take writing for granted. And when I take writing for granted, it butts up against my ego. Said ego is not the smartest brat in the pack, so things begin to unravel.

Unravelling rarely happens with copywriting, because I am always sharpening my copywriting pencil, but, as I mentioned in my blog Where to start, my creative writing pencil can get a bit blunt. There’s an intellectual, emotional and physical fitness required of writing, just like there is with any other exercise.

Writing has to be practised ... How many times have I heard or read this? Now I finally get it. Developing a commitment to writing is just as important as forming good habits around eating, exercise, sleep.

But hang on … this is getting a bit damned heavy. Discipline! Commitment? Many creatives would rather stick their hands into a bucketful of kangaroo scrotum* than use the D- and C-words. This is where it gets tricky. This is the all-important zone where frustration and avoidance and all-or-nothingness step in. But I think I’ve got it worked out …

It’s about applying the discipline to make the commitment to … play. It’s as simple as that. As kids we were allowed that time as our right. As adults we need to create it for ourselves.

One resource that’s helped me make that commitment is Laraine Herring’s Writing Begins with the Breath. (Last I looked it wasn’t stocked in Australia, but Readings bookstores will get it in for you if you ask nicely – and pay the appropriate fee.)

Herring, like many others, writes about growing our relationship to our writing. This seems a bit psychobabbly for me, but I can, for some reason, relate to making a commitment to my creativity.

I am happier, healthier and more productive when I maintain discipline around creative writing. There are plenty of reasons to pull away. Always. But factoring time to tool around each week means writing comes easier because, like mistaking stinging nettle for flowers, I'm starting to learn what's good for me.

What are your thoughts on creative discipline?

May your words pour onto the page, 



* Did I take the kangaroo stuff too far? I can’t take credit for making that one up – a client of mine has actually done it!