On Saturday last, my leg now recovered sufficiently for me to drive again, I finally got out for the day. I went to the Weavers’ Guild Sampling Day – an event which I had initially planned and set up many months ago, and which I’d recently handed over to a colleague to complete the final arrangements.
It was a splendid occasion, at least for those of us who love to spin. Different and unusual fibres flying everywhere, thirty spinning wheels in a huge circle, fabulous colours and fascinating bits of equipment on the tables round the room, courtesy of our visiting tutor and her travelling shop.
The disappointment for me was that although I managed the journey to get there, my leg wouldn’t also manage a day of spinning; but this had the advantage of creating more opportunities than usual for conversation with fellow participants as we pored lovingly over hanks of pretty fluff and bags of scrumptious fleece.
During the course of one such conversation, someone – and it may have been me – mentioned something about ‘discipline’. A passing Guild member, catching the word on the air, laughed and remarked “Discipline? What’s that, then?” In the midst of all the glorious treats on offer, a totally appropriate comment.
But something came out of my mouth unexpectedly. “It’s the ability to make a priority of the things you want to be a priority.”
Ever since Saturday, I’ve been reflecting on this, and the implications for me, personally. I realise that the word has some very negative connotations in our society because it is often used in connection with things we don’t want to do, and things which it is probable other people have insisted are ‘good for us’. And everyone knows how that story goes.
But just suppose that discipline is actually about personal choice. Suppose it’s the act of creating life the way you’d like it to be. Take me, for example. I am slowly developing a writing discipline.The reason is because I love to write. It makes me happy, it is an enjoyable enterprise and I love the process of discovering what will appear on my page.
However, recently, with the experiences I’ve been trying to live through, I seem to have lost my way a bit. Making myself sit down every day to write has been really hard work – because it has been painful to remain in one position for too long, because I have had too many deep emotions getting in the way of the writing I was ‘supposed to be doing’, because I couldn’t get my brain to work properly …
Consequently, the more I’ve tried to be disciplined about my writing, the harder it’s been to do. And the more I’ve heard those nasty little voices from the past telling me: “you’ve no sticking power”, “you need to be more disciplined”, “if you really wanted to be a doctor, you’d study physics”. Whoops, where did that last one come from? I never wanted to be a doctor.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. Jumping to another’s tune just isn’t going to work. It’s only going to build an inner resistance which will likely become an inner resentment, and that kind of negative energy isn’t leading anywhere nice.
So it’s been important for me to look at what’s important for me. To make a list of my own particular priorities, especially those relating to my writing. Priorities which include enjoying myself, loving what I do, and allowing myself enough time to look at the sky and walk my dog in between.
And having established what my priorities are, I then need to be disciplined enough to organise my life according to those. This discipline, therefore, also includes the ability to dispense with the images and assumptions that other people make about what a writer should be like. How often do we allow our lives to fill up with things that actually aren’t important to us?
I look forward to the next few weeks, with recovering health and a fully functioning brain, to see what my new priorities will create, because if I’ve got it right, my new discipline will be a highly pleasurable and rewarding experience – not hard work at all!