Monday, November 2, 2009

Inspiration or Discipline?

Is inspiration or discipline more important in creating art?

This is an ongoing discussion in two of the online writing/reading groups I've joined--Backspace and Goodreads.

In my first life, as mother to three daughters and florist for 34 years, I followed the discipline road and reached some level of success despite frequently being singed by both ends of the candle. I hadn't placed much emphasis on inspiration mainly because I didn't have the confidence that it would take me anywhere. Don't get me wrong, I placed an extremely high value on inspiration and the art it nourishes. I just didn't believe I had any seeds to begin with. And I was extremely frustrated.

Then about six years before I retired I gathered the courage to create inspired floral creations rather than pump out cookie cutter FTD designs. I had admired for over a quarter century designs by florists all over the world but never thought myself capable of attaining that level.

I guess I liken this to the difference between works by Stephanie Meyer or Nora Roberts and those by Jayne Anne Phillips or Andre Dubus III. All certainly very worthwhile reads but I have to think the two former authors are more focused on discipline and are probably more commercially successful whereas the two latter focus on inspiration (no doubt combined with discipline) and are more artistically successful.

I will grant that floral designs are in a different world than fiction. But I learned something during those last six years--I learned that if I had the courage to allow inspiration a seat on my wagon I could, indeed, create more artistically successful designs. I had the seeds all along! What a surprise when that art was validated by my clients who then inspired me to reach even higher.

So now here I am holding both ends of a new candle--the 'chronological one' that says I should retire, not rewire. The other--the one desperate to create. Does that mean I discipline my self to crank out fifty novels between now and the end of the rainbow (even assuming I find an audience!) or do I discipline myself to sit down every morning and listen to my muses and follow their inspiration?

Yep, you guessed it.

I'm an old friend to discipline--a newer one to inspiration. Who knows--maybe the three of us will be surprised with an audience. If not I have these two friends who've helped me enjoy the process of trying.

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