From Carey’s Wallace’s essay on maintaining discipline as an artist. The most difficult of all tasks, for precisely the reason she indicates:
There is no such thing, we discovered, as disciplining one corner of a life. There are only disciplined or undisciplined lives.
So far I’ve kept to precisely the opposite pattern – bursts of creativity under duress or as a surprise to myself – but I suffer from the contrary problem, a kind of perennial malaise of self-disappointment when not working creatively.
But I’m not sure this feeling is necessary. Fallow and physical periods are not entirely bad for us. Some people need to work on their art every day, but for others perhaps not even every season. For the past month up in the woods I’ve been leading an almost entirely physical life, far away from any writing. Landscaping all day for pay, and then coming home to a very physical life at home: start the fire, go down to the spring to get water, cook dinner, water the plants, build stone walls, move manure, sow seeds, etc. A little reading to unwind at the end of the day is about all I can handle of an intellectual life at present. I’m sure all this poverty will hurt me soon enough, and manual labor is no cure for poverty in the modern age, but I don’t feel unproductive or even uncreative, and not undisciplined either. ”Vocatus aut non vocatus deus adest.”