Work: The Art Of Discipline

I think we lose discipline when in our minds our art becomes less important than other things. Art in many circles is seen as frivolity but we know better–it’s tied to who we are. Life tries to trick us into believing that art is less important. And I’m not advocating shirking responsibilities, especially to the ones we love. It takes great discipline to hold to the responsibilities to our loved ones. But we do it because we see it as unimaginable to do otherwise, and rightfully so.

Low Light Fishing Boats 16x20 oil on linen MTMcClanahanAnother discipline killer is fear–the fear of being seen as using our time frivolously (which goes back to last paragraph), the fear of failure–these fears can stop work and we think our inspiration has dried up when in reality I’m not sure that that is even possible. I mean inspiration is everywhere and work brings it on fuller. And work is everything we do from wielding a brush to visiting a museum (as long as we don’t let visiting a museum, or other things, act as avoidance to the actual brush wielding). It’s all tied together–discipline, work, beliefs, fear.

…work seems to be the answer to most, if not all, of the questions we may stumble upon”

I heard someone say one time that at some point you fill up your brain and it just can’t take in any more information. I surely don’t believe this and wonder if deep down we kind of think this way when we are in a rut—that maybe we have no more to give—when in reality, again, that is impossible. It’s hard but, as they say, most things worthwhile are. It’s difficult being in a brain-muck and from living and reading it seems we all get there now and then. But as I believe and said recently, work seems to be the answer to most, if not all, of the questions we may stumble upon.

And also, the harder we try the worse it gets. The “secret” is in letting go of it all I think. I’m not a psychologist but it seems the harder we try and hold on to our time the less we have, the harder we try to find inspiration the less we see. So I tell myself to just let go of all the stress and just paint. Easier said than done.

MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at

2 Responses

  1. Betsy says:

    When you talk about responsibilities, you forget that we also have a responsibility to ourselves, . We deserve to be fulfilled and to care for our own needs, which includes the need for self expression and creativity. The Yin and Yang of life is balance to create a natural harmony. I understand the sentiment of responsibility to others. Frequently, I put off painting behind every other demand on my time – some of which are needed and are truly my responsibility, others that have been taken on because that is what others expect of me. But I feel most fulfilled when my life is in balance, and I commit regular time to my art even when it is not “perfect”. It is not so much the end result, but the process of creating, learning, exploring, and sometimes finding that which I can appreciate for myself. Letting go of “oughts” and “shoulds” and “supposed to be’s” is a challenge, but , like zen, helps us to know the true center.

    • MT says:

      Responsibility to ourselves, that resonates. Is that the same as saying that you can’t love another unless you love yourself first? You can’t be responsible for others unless you’re responsible for yourself, your own well being, first?

      I guess that’s where I’m coming from when I say that “Life tries to trick us into believing that art is less important”–what we want to do with our time is seen as frivolous and so we feel guilty, but I guess just doing anything for yourself can possibly make one feel selfish–bring on the oughts and shoulds. It’s compounded when we believe our time spent painting is seen as waisting time (the time honored left/right brain debate). I love Robin Williams line in Dead Poets Society where he says that (all that left brain stuff) is necessary to live, but (art) is the reason we live.

      Responsibility to self, it’s a tough question when the delimma is what one wants to do with their life, as a way of life I mean. I was having a conversation on LinkedIn and this was the thing–where does personal responsibility end and social responsibility begin, when it comes to making a living? How does one balance the necessity to live with the why? It’s tough.

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