Advice for creatives no. 1 | Self-forgiveness vs. Discipline

what you need is self forgiveness

What you need is self-forgiveness, not discipline. 

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast

“I think one of the errors in thinking that I see people make when they start to embark on creativity is that they think the most important thing they need is discipline, when I think the most important thing you need is self-forgiveness. Because the only thing that’s going to get you back to work on day two is if you forgive yourself for how bad your work was on your work was on day one. And that’s not discipline, that’s just love.”

–Elizabeth Gilbert, Magic Lessons Podcast Episode #12 with Brene Brown (~18:00)


I’m really excited to start this little project I’m calling Advice for Creatives — where I document and transcribe all the lessons I’m absorbing from people wiser than me in books, podcasts, and real life.

The first lesson is about the importance of self-forgiveness. I heard it on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons. This advice rang so true for me. It’s easy for me to be bootcamp-style disciplined, perfectionist, and rigorous with my work. But, as I’ve come to realize,  you can’t force creative work with sheer willpower and discipline. 

Yes, discipline is necessary, but it’s not the magic ingredient. What ends up happening to me is that I become rigid, and the stuff sucks, and my mind gets stuck in loops of self-torment. (And I’m not even aware that I’m torturing myself!) Being gentle with myself, and forgiving myself for bad starts and shitty first drafts is really hard.  And, as I’m coming to realize, so essential. Only then can I quiet the voices in my head long enough to make something that’s okay, and then, maybe one day, make something that’s good.