When you take ballet, you learn right away that an enormous amount of discipline is required. You spend hours practicing exercises at the barre that are designed to strengthen one’s leg muscles and that form the basis of dance steps one will later learn away from the barre. The ratio of barre exercises to actual choreography in a beginner class is about 45 minutes to 15 minutes, but without the basics, one never learns to dance properly. The same goes for dancing on pointe. You can’t even begin to take pointe classes until you’ve had a few years of flat feet ballet and then you have to be evaluated for whether your leg muscles are strong enough. After that, you spend hours at the barre learning the same said exercises but this time doing them on pointe. And then years later, if you’ve hung in there with it all, you not only have amazing leg muscles (at 42 I still do), you can actually dance.
The reason I’m going on and on about all of this is that I believe in this type of discipline. It’s crucial for the artistic process. And yet I forget sometimes how much sweat is shed in the process of learning to express ourselves with grace, beauty and truth.
I’m in the process of trying to write a book and I’m still at the barre – in a major way. I want to prance around – I want a book in the bookstore – and yet I must remember that I need to get back to basics. It can take a lot of time laying a foundation before we have an artistic product suitable for an audience. It also takes training. I did not learn to dance ballet on my own. I took classes twice a week and practiced at home.
So, I’m back in training. I’m working with a coach and I’ve signed up for a writer’s workshop later this summer. And I’m doing exercises about what it is I’m actually going to write so that I can eventually move out to the floor and write the thing. I’m also studying a foreign language which reminds me of the complexity of communication and the messages we most want to convey.
The word discipline comes from the word disciple. And yes, discipline is its own form of discipleship.