Any writer worth a damn knows discipline lies at the core of a solid, fulfilling writing life. I learned this one the hard way.
In college, we had a guest artist teach a few classes in my junior year. It was nice for a theater department in the middle of nowhere to bring professionals for us to get to know more about the craft, since it took a while for the trends to make their way to Wyoming. This individual brought an intense east coast attitude; a straightforwardness I wasn’t used to, and I struggled with it throughout his entire class. I was raised in a small town, I didn’t know how to deal with that level of directness. From the get-go, I thought he was out to get me. Don’t get me wrong, his criticisms in acting class were never out of line. This professor was not a villain, but I saw him as one back then. When I was a kid, I thought anyone asking me to challenge myself was asking me to compromise who I was. I misunderstood often, so I didn’t listen when I should have been. As you can guess, I didn’t do very well in his class. I went to see him at his office and long-story short, he asked me what I wanted to do with my writing, which has always been my primary creative focus. He wanted to know the end goal I had in mind. I told him I wanted to write movies. That’s when he said “I don’t think that’s going to work out for you. Movies and TV, with all their deadlines, that’s not what you’re cut out for. You need time, you need to keep writing plays.”
I didn’t know how to deal with that honesty, so I took it as an attack. Clenching my teeth I left his office and bitched for hours in my head. How dare he pigeonhole me? How dare he know what I can and can’t do? Fuck that guy. I got so offended I forgot to listen to what he was telling me: All those hours in class for an entire semester, and I never showed him what I could do. He could see I was a talented guy. In class he would compliment my performances and my directing instincts, but I was always unprepared, half-assing my assignments, jumping from one distraction to the next. In that office, he wasn’t limiting my prospects or pigeonholing me: He was daring me to do better. To take it to the next level. He saw talent without discipline.
I have never developed my discipline because I relied so heavily on my talent that I didn’t develop the other half of the equation. In the end, it’s hard to be incomplete.
I am playing catch-up. And it’s a beautiful thing.
It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.Zig Ziglar