Until very recently I would buy a new notebook, subscribe to a different meditation app, or insert-here-the-miraculous-item-of-your-choice, and repeat to myself: this time will be different, this time I will finally become a less chaotic person. Sometimes I convinced myself to try some hot new thing – hello #bulletjournal – or experiment a famous technique – pomodoro? #beentheredonethat, more than once. But nothing was as effective as examining my life, patterns, and priorities in an honest way. I know: the self-knowledge discourse is getting kind of worn out, but it was truly the only way out from all those ready-made answers that just didn't seem to work for me.
The idea that discipline kills spontaneity is very rooted in the mind and hearts of creative people, and I understand that: art demands a different kind of openness to the chaos of life. But recently I realized that this way of seeing things was actually pulling me down because it was just another way I found to condition my creativity to things that were completely out of my control. In a book called "My Parents", from Aharon Appelfeld, there's a quote that summarizes very well what I finally understood: "Mom says you need to train your hand so that when the time comes, it is ready to express the feelings of the heart". Discipline is what allows us to work every day, even if we don't know very well where this will take us. It's what keeps us going, doing, experimenting, and creating even when this seems the dumbest thing to do, just because we want to be ready for when inspiration decides to knock on our doors. The character's mother was right: we need to train our hand, and discipline can be a powerful tool for that.
But recognizing this was just the first step. After that, an even more fundamental thought came to my mind: not only we think discipline and creativity can work together, but also we tend to have a very limited understanding of what constitutes discipline. Since I always searched for ready-made tools and techniques – completely dissociated from my daily life – I usually ended up frustrated thinking that I would never be able to be a focused and organized person. But between being some kind of Marie Kondo and a hurricane of disconnected actions, lies something that, from now on I will call "discipline for chaotic people".
Discipline for chaotic people is a methodology composed of three steps. The first one is what makes it completely fail-proof: even before the beginning, we need to forgive ourselves for not being perfect. There are good, medium, and really bad days ahead of us. One doesn't eliminate the other and, more importantly, we don't have to start from scratch every time a shitty day knocks us down. The second step is what makes the methodology very flexible: diversify and simplify our notions of discipline and order. A piece of paper where you doodle every day is way better than a complex method that you will never use consistently. And last, but not least, the third step is what makes discipline for chaotic people the less expensive methodology in the market: start with what you already have. In my case, this meant not buying more notebooks and also understanding the behaviour and habits I already had and working to improve them, instead of trying something completely different.
Those three little steps are helping me create my own way of seeing discipline. My days don't have a rigid schedule, but there are a few things that I try to do every day. I'm terrified by any habit-tracking tool, but I realised not drinking enough water was giving me headaches, so I keep a huge bottle by my side. We are used to seeing discipline as a rigid thing, but that's not necessarily true. I'm more and more sure there's a discipline for chaotic people, and therefore, that discipline can be a little bit chaotic too.
This article is part of "profession: artist", a content series about assuming sensibility, art and creativity as your work.
written by Marcela Monteiro, a writer who creates narratives in multiple formats and platforms. Her production stands out for a very sensitive point of view that frequently gravitates around everyday sensations and feelings with which everyone can identify. Graduated in Law and Mastered in Communication Sciences, with emphasis on Internet and New Media, Marcela has already worked for advertising, content and public relations agencies, producing articles, scripts and integrated campaigns for several clients. In addition to that, her work has already been published by Glamour Magazine, Casa VOGUE and the Portuguese newspaper Público.
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