Artists are commonly depicted as geniuses in their respective fields. It’s true that being an artist requires a lot of talent and creativity. The occasional flash of inspiration certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
But this popular stereotype also does artists a disservice by devaluing one of the fundamental building blocks of their craft: discipline. If we keep telling the same stories that dwell on artistic genius, leaving out the hard work and dedication to self-improvement, new artists will focus on the wrong things.
Any aspiring artist needs to know that disciplining themselves is not only necessary to succeed. It may also prove to be their career X-factor in the long term.
Being a Pro
In the information age, everyone can be a creator. Our ubiquitous mobile devices can generate, upload, and consume content on the go, even if creating art is just a hobby alongside our full-time jobs.
The result is a level playing field, which entails immense and intense competition. That video you upload on YouTube or TikTok is competing for views with content posted by teenagers around the world. Maybe you take great photos with a professional camera, but a tourist who happens to frequent amazing locations can grab more attention, even if they’re only snapping shots with a smartphone.
Today’s artists exist in an ocean of talent. To use business parlance, talent is no longer a core competency. It doesn’t differentiate you from the pack or give you a competitive advantage.
The modern context is completely different from that of decades or centuries ago. You need to be as disciplined as the pros if you want to get noticed, let alone get paid for the hard work of creating.
Don’t just create on a whim. Create and post regularly. Make an effort to ensure that your work reaches your desired audience through different channels. If you aren’t satisfied with a piece, keep on revisiting it. Draw up a business plan for your creative career so that you can potentially balance the books and recoup some ROI.
If you ever end up becoming a professional artist, doing commissioned work, or collaborating with others on a project, remember that you’re expected to bring value. A disciplined work ethic is the surest way to do that, time and again.
Continuing to Grow
In school, educators develop a curriculum according to the principle of spiral progression. Its premise is that subjects must be taught starting with the simplest concepts first. As students advance in grade, more complex material can be tackled. This applies equally to learning in a classroom and for online basic education classes.
However, the domain of art includes people from diverse backgrounds, and this encourages its practitioners to think divergently. Too often, the individual takes this as a license to approach their learning haphazardly rather than following a sensible progression. Predictably, this is frequently reflected in hit-and-miss results where professional output is concerned.
It’s true that with artistic pursuits, there’s greater potential for talent to compensate for lack of formal training. Many artists don’t even graduate from art school because experience can be just as valuable as structured learning.
Even so, you get more value out of deliberate experiential learning. Deliberate practice is as vital in art as it is in academic fields, industrial occupations, or professional sports.
Every artistic endeavor involves skills with specific components. Having the discipline to improve on the minutiae of technique, especially forcing yourself to master the aspects you wouldn’t otherwise find interesting, is necessary to hone your craft.
Overcoming Creative Block
What artist hasn’t woken up feeling uninspired, their minds empty of ideas, and their bodies unwilling to exert the effort required to do more than just go through the motions?
When you face the dreaded creative block, inspiration won’t strike you on demand. Creativity doesn’t flow on a whim. The only thing that will reliably power you through those low points in your artistic journey is routine.
Routines are laid down through discipline. Pay attention to your habits, and you’ll realize which ones are helpful versus those that are counterproductive. It’s possible to change them, but only if you commit to reinforcing the good habits and quitting bad ones day after day.
Start each day productively, and get the most important things done first. If a task seems too daunting, break it down until it’s manageable. That voice telling you it’s impossible or that today just isn’t your day to be creative? It’s only in your mind. A disciplined artist simply falls into their customary routine and starts working away at the challenge.
Talent can be innate or acquired. But without discipline, no amount of talent or creativity will save your artistic endeavors from going to waste.