What’s Your Strength: Creativity or Discipline?

What\'s Your Weakness?Creativity and discipline are two topics that have individually received a huge amount of attention online, offline, and just about everywhere in between. And they probably deserve that attention, too.

As freelancers, much of our prosperity can be drawn directly back to one of these two things — how creative is your work, and how much of it can you get done. Or, in your own business, how many great ideas do you have, and how fast can you implement them.

The tough part is that very few people naturally have an abundance of both creativity and discipline. The scales are normally tipped in one direction or the other, and it’s our job both enhance the stronger side and shore up the weaker one.

So, in this thread I’d like to discuss this idea further. Which half are you stronger in — creativity or discipline? In what ways have you helped to balance things out? How have you played to your stronger side? How have you improved your weaker side?

As always, we’ll continue discussion in the comments…


  1. says

    I am squarely in the “creativity is my stronger side” boat. I have books filled with ideas to use, if only I had the time to implement them all :-)

    The biggest thing that has helped me accomplish more has been abandoning my perfectionist nature. Especially for personal projects.

  2. says

    I find that my creativity flowers within a disciplined framework. I tend to dodge things that are too open-ended. On the other hand, if I get trapped working in situations that demand nothing but rote execution, my creativity stalls out completely. That’s the beauty of being freelance — I can throttle things myself. It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses, yes, and to be aware of labels and thinking such as “creativity vs. discipline” — yet being able to balance and intermix the two is key!

  3. says

    I am definitely better with discipline. I have lots of creative ideas and plan time to work on them but they always turn out less than what I saw in my head. I struggle getting that last 10% on a design that makes it amazing. Staying on task is easy. I get tonnes of coding done each day.

  4. says

    Terrific question, and I think you hit on something that can put us at a disadvantage. When I try to balance the two equally, invariably one suffers. Overall I feel more creative than discipline, and when I try to impose more discipline on my daily schedule, it often backfires. Urgh. They can coexist, and they need to. But it’s freakin’ hard to figure out how!

  5. says

    In my world there are two sides to this:

    One side is client projects, where by necessity my discipline is stronger than my creativity. Creativity takes longer and clients usually want projects “thunk up” quickly. Ironic, but usually the thinkin’ stage is very short and the execution stage can be weeks long. Backwards!

    The other side is personal projects. Like Mason, I’ve got books full of creative idears and doodles. Putting them into an executable project requires discipline that I’m sorely lacking right now.

  6. says

    The creativity is the easy part, my mind was built for brainstorming and designing and painting and complimentary colors and figuring out puzzles like knots (both string and muscles).

    The discipline is hardest. At least the discipline to hold ‘a real job’ and work 8-5 and do the list of things I need to do to make other people happy.

    The days I have no structure are the best flowing days of energy and creationism. I can get the trash taken out, my grocery list, laundry folded AND put away, and still knock out a painting or two plus some cards for friends and some wire sculpture. Those are the days that fit best, when it’s a free for all. As for ‘deadlines’ for writing, those can be handled when I can stay up late working on my own pace, the 7am alarm is the part that pulls me back.

    Some arguments are that to be able to operate in this world you have to adapt, have your gallery open from 9-7 or place business calls during regular hours. I’m wondering why I still inherently believe this when we have email and twitter and can leave messages any time day or night.

    Thank you for a good thought provoker – got my juices flowing today!

  7. says

    Creativity is a tool that i use better when i got total focus on my work. Discipline is a goal, i think “i wanna be disciplined”, but i canĀ“t say “i will be creative”.

  8. says

    I definitely agree with Mason Hipp. If there were enough hours in the day to implement all of the ideas in my brainstorming notebook, I might just have a business by now, or at least a much more impressive portfolio! I’m really overflowing with creative ideas, but have no time to implement them due to my strict mommy and twitter schedule, lol.

    On the other hand, I’m very disciplined when I’m working toward a nice payday or a 4.0 GPA. You could say that my level of discipline is directly proportionate to the $$ at the end of the tunnel. :D

  9. says

    Creativity, which is why I love the start of a project and rarely enjoy the last few steps before the launch. I’d rather do a new mockup than to tweak problem areas of an existing project.

  10. says

    Depends on what I am doing. I can get up everyday at 5:15 and hit the gym, but I lack discipline in working on creative projects on regular basis.

  11. says

    I’m a very creative person that can think out of the box. Once committed to a project my discipline to get the job done is excellent. I’m almost stubborn about meeting the goals of my project. Without that personal commitment and sense of project ownership I’ve much less discipline to accomplish the mundane.

  12. says

    Thank god – and I thought I was the only one experiencing this :) I have always been wondering whether to plan more or let things flow when I am working on personal projects. This really can drive you nuts as there is no answer: your creativity is sitting on your left shoulder whereas your discipline on your right and they are both speaking in your ears.

    I came to the realisation that I function very well in a disciplined framework to get myself into a “Get it Done” zone. When I am not surrounded by this framework / disciplined environment I ask myself what did I have there that is missing now? I then either take one or two of those elements and implement them plus also let go of “wanting” to be that disciplined and enter the flow of creativity. I think it is like Ying and Yang and I need to accept it that it is there and make the best out of it and yes – don’t label it or consider it as “bad” if it does not work.

    Sometimes it is good though to simply pop into a discipline framework to simply boost up some stamina skills to bring things to an end.

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