Discipline & The Creative Professional

by | Aug 27, 2021 | Journal

Every creative person has mentors who were instrumental in his or her creative career. People who laid the foundation for creativity, who shaped us in ways that made us who we are now. We’ve been thinking quite a bit about those people in our own lives, and so we decided to track some of them down and continue mining the depths of their wisdom and experience by asking one of our favorite questions: “What is the most important thing for a creative professional to know?” And we’re getting some rather deep responses from them that we want to share with you.

We’re going to kick off this series by hearing from Dr. Eileen Wirth, who is the Professor Emeritus of Journalism at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and who played a tremendous role in the creative life of The Greenhouse’s president and creative director, Shun Lee Fong. Dr. Wirth immediately rose to the challenge of answering that question – so much so, in fact, that we’re going to have her provide a series of articles on what it takes to be an effective creative professional. Be watching for more from her and from our other creative mentors in the weeks ahead.

Dr. Wirth, what is the most important thing for a creative professional to know?

I’m picturing my extremely talented alum Cliff Brunt of the Associated Press covering Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. Wow! 

He’s come a long way from the tough streets of North Omaha where he grew up in a single-parent home. Cliff once compared his mom to a drill sergeant who pushed him to graduate from college while many of his friends ended up in prison. 

She gave him the key to success: DISCIPLINE.

Discipline got Cliff, an African-American, through a year of covering sports in a virtually all-white, small Nebraska town where the boss subjected him to a boot camp in meeting deadlines and getting details right. He emerged a professional. Without discipline, you can’t perfect any art form, no matter how talented you are. 

Here are some Discipline 101 suggestions:

  • Learn and copy the work habits of successful people in your field. How many hours a day do they paint or practice their instrument? How many jokes a day do they write?
  • Work at your art every single day.
  • Set deadlines for projects and hold yourself accountable by reporting to a mentor or colleague. Even stars who don’t produce get fired. 
  • Seek constructive criticism, revise your work, then keep revising until you get things right. This is my sixth revision of this piece. Each one gets a little better.

Get moving. You can do it!

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