In The Company of Samurai and Poets

Creativity and discipline are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many artists have promoted discipline as the basis for mastery and as the route which eventually leads to the highest forms of creativity. But discipline takes different forms.

In feudal Japan the bushi class, or samurai, began training in the way of the sword and bow around age five. The rigorous training that followed would shape them for the rest of their lives as warriors committed to the physical forms of swordplay and the mental forms of ceremony. These structures embodied the discipline of the samurai way of life in a practical and tangible way.

The arts take on a different type of discipline. The person who is too afraid or lazy to pick up his pen will never be a poet. As the old cliche goes, practice makes perfect. However, the self-discipline required for practice, devotion, and the artistic growth that yields sustained creativity does not require structure or form in the way that the martial discipline of the samurai does. Poets practice their art in free verse and in haiku; music varies widely from the free flow jam sessions of jazz to the structure of the symphony.

The point is that all artistic endeavors are intended to bring a vision to life -- how you get there is your choice. If you prefer a certain structure like a samurai, that's fine. If you prefer to build off of a blank slate, then that's fine too. Either way you'll need a heart full of discipline.

Written by Chris Allison on May 12, 2009


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Chris Allison