Friday, September 17, 2004

Military Discipline vs. Creative Laissez-Faire

I've been thinking for a long time about the environment that gets the best out of people.

In my short working life so far I've worked alone by myself, alone in a room full of others (undoubtedly the worst scenario) and together in a team (perhaps the best). Through all of this, I've found there's like a spectrum of creative vs. discipline - especially in the creative writing industry I work in.

I wondered to myself - are creativity and discipline really poles apart? Does structure tend to stifle revolutionary ideas?

More and more, I don't think that's the case. In fact I believe a bit of military discipline could help anyone who wants to be more creative. And if you other creative types reading this are anything like me, that will make you uncomfortable and hopeful at the same time.

The more I think about it, discipline and structure by themselves don't mean much. It's more about creating a culture that appeals to the highest ideals in humanity.

It's best illustrated by a section I read today in my latest review book, The Battle of Long Tan (as told by the commanders). It's written by 2nd Lieutenant Dave Sabben, commander of 12 Platoon, Delta Company:

"My memories of OTU (Officer Training Unit) are mostly about struggling just to keep up. In later years, I found that most of the others felt that way too. If there were good times at OTU, I missed them. Yet I relished the course. I had never been so challenged before, and I had a vision of the end result. I recognised that this experience was building a better 'me', and I actually found the development deeply satisfying.

"...'Suppress the ego; maintain the output.' I could put up with whatever was thrown at me because I knew we were training for situations where worse would be thrown and I'd still be expected to throw my weight."

Great stuff.


At 12:39 pm, Blogger Borscht said...

To a large extent, I think discipline is anathema to most creatives for all of the implications that you've precisely mentioned -- the fact it's too reminiscent of running a boot camp. Although, as you've rightly demonstrated, it doesn't have to be so.

Few people know that some of the best writers in their day had unshakeable commitments to their craft, to be adhered to religiously. Stephen King's methodolgies are, on record, of the more macabre variety -- usually involving sequestering himself into a locked room with a full 24-case of beer. He wouldn't emerge until it was done, and he'd managed to get several pages of writing done. Hemingway was notorious for his dedication to his fitness regimen, for he felt the best phyisical state for writing was to always have a slight bit of fatigue - doubtless, in my opinion, because it would then compel him to sleep -- the craft of writing tending to be an obsessive one.

If you expect to do anything of value to life it must be kept at everlastingly and with a routine. Creativity is hard work - and hard work requires discipline. For anyone to think it otherwise is deluding oneself. Please check out the following titles: Natalie Goldberg's: "Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft" ( or Stephen King's: "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" ( -- AM


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