How to Be Both Creative & Disciplined

By AALofts Design

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By AALofts Design

There are two kinds of people in the world: those that believe that you cannot be both creative & disciplined & those that believe that these are not two opposite ideas. The former certainly have their arguments, but the simple fact is that discipline can cause creativity to thrive when it is utilized correctly.

It may seem philosophical, but discipline is a key element in boosting a hobby to a career. Read on to learn why creativity & discipline are not opposites & how to use discipline to get you to your creative goals.​

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Interior Designer Working on Construction Drawings

Does Discipline Kill Creativity?

It does seem contradictory, but the argument that discipline & creativity are opposite stems from the idea that creativity is only thinking outside the box & discipline is learning to function within the box.

Neither of these things is true, & therefore discipline is not anti-creativity: discipline is using focus to get things done. When you exercise discipline, you are creating specific boundaries, deadlines, & rules for yourself that you stick to.

This does not mean that everything you do needs to be disciplined. In fact, you can choose to keep the discipline to certain aspects of your life, like maintaining a set schedule or even just keeping a daily checklist.

In order to be both creative & disciplined, you must find a way to balance the two. Discipline exists to create structure in a creative’s otherwise disorganized life, but it should not hinder their creative process. Use it to keep your process grounded, but do not let it stifle your art.

The argument could actually be made that a lack of discipline kills creativity. We all know how easy the creative life would be if inspiration was never-ending. Unfortunately, it appears that inspiration is a finite resource. Inspiration alone cannot sustain a creative project. It is a discipline that does so.

Handbag Designer Sketching Technical Drawings

How Discipline Helps Creativity.

Discipline helps creativity by keeping it in check. As stated before, it is what separates career creatives from hobbyists.

Discipline eliminates the stress that comes from disarray, & this is actually important in your ability to access the creative part of your brain. When you are stressed it becomes more difficult for you to do things like relax & tap into your imagination.

If you are more worried about meeting a deadline after procrastinating, then you will not have the mental energy to spend on creativity.

Integrating discipline into certain aspects of your life is like hiring a virtual assistant for your brain. The discipline can handle things like setting your schedule, answering phone calls, & making appointments.

This gives your creative side more time & energy to get things done. You end up answering every worry before it can arise, so this allows you to transfer easily from one project to the next.

If you get it down right, discipline will ensure that there are minimal surprises or things forgotten in your life. You will not be left running out of material in the middle of a project, or end up with an angry phone call from a supervisor or client over a missed meeting.

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How to Stay in “The Creative Zone”

While discipline is essential to harnessing creativity, you should make sure you do not allow it to suffocate your entire process. When used incorrectly, it can make it difficult to stay within your creative zone.

Too much discipline looks like:

  • Losing your sense of creativity
  • Agreeing to too many projects & deadlines
  • Sacrificing values for work

To combat this, you should define what is necessary for the existence of your creative zone, figure out how much you can take on, & determine your values & boundaries.

Defining Your Creative Zone

Your creative zone is the ideal conditions that come together & catalyze your creative process, & it looks different for everyone.

For example, some people work best with a setlist of things they need to accomplish every day. Others may be overwhelmed by this, & instead, they opt for creating as few deadlines as possible

The first step in staying in your creative zone is determining what exactly that looks like & then being disciplined enough to make that a standard.

Create a schedule that is conducive to your creative process. Make agreements with yourself about what will be done & when. Let discipline be the one to turn down spontaneous events that might encroach on your creative zone.

Figure How Much You Can Take On

Creatives tend to go two different ways. They either want to show the world what they can do, so they agree to anything & everything under the moon, or they hole up in their cave of creativity & only come out when they have made something they are proud of.

This problem is more prominent with the former, & it yanks you from your creative zone.

To combat this issue, you should use discipline to do things like determining how much time a project will take & set realistic deadlines. You should take care to not commit to a new project that will steal any time & energy you do not have to spare.

Determining Values & Boundaries

If you have ever agreed to something that did not sit well in your soul, you will understand this one. When something is against what you believe in, even if you are not sure of what you believe in, it hampers your ability to be creative.

You may assume that locking down on discipline can bypass this, but things that work against your personal values are not so easy to overlook.

Instead, take time to explore & understand yourself & your values. From here you can create rules or boundaries to help you determine what decisions you make & what projects you are willing to sign onto.

Doing this will ensure you do not agree to a project simply because you are on the spot & cannot think of a reason not to.

Architects Meeting Working on Plans

Best Practices for Relieving Creative Block.

If you find that your river of creativity has been dammed up, there are a few things you can do to unblock it.

Creative block tends to come from a discipline imbalance, & it can go both ways.

Too Little Discipline

Creative block that stems from a lack of discipline results from letting your creative process engulf the stricter aspects of running a creative business.

When there is too little discipline it seems like deadlines sneak up on you & when you reach the end of the project you have no idea what to do next.

To relieve this block, you need to find places where you lack discipline. Common areas are:

  • Scheduling deadlines
  • Picking up new projects
  • Outsourcing accountability

If you are able to set a specific schedule, it will make it easier to determine when you need to have a new project idea. If these two things are difficult for you, you can reinforce them by setting up a “failsafe” method like phone reminders or even asking a friend to check on your progress.

Too Much Discipline

The block can also stem from too much discipline. You need to give your creativity room to breathe, so you may need to do things like:

  • Spread deadlines out more
  • Give yourself breaks
  • Create no-bounds projects

Spreading out your deadlines does not mean you take more time. Instead, you choose different stages to be hard milestones. This may not always be up to you, but you should be able to put your two cents in on any schedule. Let anyone you are working with know that you work better under these conditions.

You may also need to give yourself breaks from time to time. The less fun thing about adding discipline to creativity is that it is easier to burn out, so you may need to step away from being creative. Go observe the brilliance of others & recharge.

Lastly, you can always create projects for yourself that are discipline free. Tapping into the idea of complete creative surrender can be useful from time to time, & this is one of those times.

Wrapping it All Up.


If you’re interested in further reading, please see the links to my trusted resources page & related articles below. To find out more about AALofts Design, please click here. If you found this content helpful, want to collaborate on a project, or would like to request an article topic, please click here to get in touch via the contact form. Feel free to share & connect on social media, if you found this content helpful.

Article by Amy Lofts.

Article by Amy Lofts.

Owner of AALofts Design

Welcome! I am a graphic designer & digital marketer with over ten years of experience within a range of industries including; e-commerce, architecture, cruise liners, textiles & interior design. Having grown with exposure to various disciplines of art & design, my brand reflects my love of elegance, beauty & exploration. Get in touch or learn more.

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