Discipline with Mary Oliver

The #1 challenge many of us are facing in our creative lives is finding time/staying motivated. I always have SO MANY ideas and then get frustrated by how long it takes for anything to come to fruition… or I get bored living with my idea before it ever sees the light of day.

I recently listened to an amazing interview with poet Mary Oliver by Krista Tippet on the On Being podcast.

Check out this excerpt (edited) in which Mary talks about the creative process AND/OR listen to the whole episode here.

Ms. Oliver: …as I talk about it in the Poetry Handbook, discipline is very important… The habit — I think we’re creative all day long. And if — we have to have an appointment to have that work out on the page. Because the creative part of us gets tired of waiting, or just gets tired. And It’s helped a lot of students…To have that meeting with that part of oneself because there are, of course, other parts of life…

Ms. Tippett: … And also when you write about that — the discipline that creates space for something quite mysterious to happen. You talk about that “wild, silky part of ourselves.” You talk about the “part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—a heart of the star as opposed to the shape of the star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious.”

Ms. Oliver: Where? What is that from?

Ms. Tippett: That’s from the Poetry Handbook. [laughs]

Ms. Oliver: [laughs] It’s been a while.

Ms. Tippett: It’s great. But you say — you promise — it learns quickly what sort of courtship It’s going to be. you’re saying that the writer has to be kind of in courtship with this…

Ms. Oliver: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: …elusive, essential, but elusive, cautious, as you say, cautious part. And that if you turn up every day, it will learn to trust you.

Ms. Oliver: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I remember that… That trust is very important.

Ms. Tippett: And That’s the creative process.

Ms. Oliver: That is the creative process.

So Mary Oliver, whose poems seem so effortless, advocates for the necessity of discipline. I’ve recently been disciplining myself to make space in the beginning of each day for creative input (more on that later) and output (rather than spending an entire morning checking & responding to email…)

The result is, well, this blog! It’s still a work in progress… Recently a mentor said to me, “Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Just launch!” So here it is.

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