â€śHow did you get it together to write a whole book?â€ť a fellow writer asked me recently.Â Â Â Â Â This was by no means the first time Iâ€™ve been asked that question. As human beings, we share a common yearning to bring our inner vision into tangible form. Whenever any one of us comes full circleâ€”whatever the project may beâ€”we ignite a flame in those around us to bring their own secret dreams to fruition.
The question, always, is how.
â€śWell, I treated my book like a job,â€ť I said. â€śIt took the same level of discipline that any big work assignment takes. Getting the inspiration to write was only the beginning. After that, I had to get real about what it would take to actually do it. This meant negotiating my schedule, finding mentors, learning new skillsâ€¦â€ťÂ
I could feel her absorbing my words, applying them to her private aspirations. â€śItâ€™s so good to hear you say that,â€ť she said thoughtfully. â€śI used to think that art justâ€¦happened. When we talk about creativity, itâ€™s like discipline is a dirty word. But if you want to produce something, you have to keep at it.â€ť
I understood exactly what she meant. Often discipline is viewed as a bummer, a drag, a buzzkill, akin to the teacher ordering us to â€śDo your homework!â€ť Yet when it is in service of something personally meaningful, discipline can be incredibly joyful. It provides the container that allows our creativity to evolve into something we can see, feel, and share with others. There is great satisfaction in prioritizing our lives around the projects that have real value to us, and then following through until our actions produce ground-level results.
Several weeks back, my husband and I went to a belly dancing event where a friend was performing. Crammed in the bleachers, I was captivated by the decadent outfits, the bright array of colors, the energy humming in the air. I sat perched on the edge of my seat.
One dancer, a dark-haired middle-aged woman, took the stage to perform a solo.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â At first her body swayed slowly, morphing to the gentle rhythms of the music. And thenâ€”suddenlyâ€”the music erupted into heavy, pulsating beats. In that instant, herÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â body burst open. She leapt effortlessly into the air, head lifted high, arms thrown wide.
I will never forget the look on her face as the music soared. Her eyes glowed with the light of pure soul expression. Bliss. As she twirled and swirled around the stage, there was no separation between dancer and music. They moved as one.
In that moment, art just happened. Yet before that moment, I imagine that this woman had put in countless hours of training that prepared her to dance so beautifully.
Each of us faces different responsibilities that affect the amount of time, energy, and resources we can devote to our most treasured projects. Regardless of the circumstances, some measure of dedication is integral to inching forward with our dreams. But structure that is too tight can squelch spontaneity and creativity. And structure that is too loose may not support us in achieving the results we seek.
The solution is the middle way. Your way.
On this eve of 2010, what is your heart longing for? Would you love to create a work of art, complete an educational program, build a business, follow a travel itinerary, learn a language, launch an event, take up a new hobby, get in great shape, or something else entirely? What structures have you put in place (with your schedule, finances, relationships, or otherwise) to help cultivate your desire? How are these structures working, or not working, for you? What small steps could you take to support yourself more fully?
As you place your dreams higher on the â€śTo Doâ€ť list, you nurture the soil in which they will grow. And there is great joy in discipline like that.