“Craft Talks” is a blog series featuring ArtYard artists in residence. In this first post, TyLie Shider shares insights into his own craft as a playwright while he is in residence developing new work that will culminate in public engagements this fall. TyLie amplifies the often overlooked skills and work that goes into cultivating and practicing creative discipline and how to develop and strengthen the discipline it takes to complete a project.

Creative discipline is the ability to complete a single project from idea to creation to development to production.

There are steps to finishing a project — and what separates the successful from the unsuccessful is the ability to complete each step without fail.

It is helpful to acknowledge the completion of each step in your creative process as a singular success. It is also helpful to celebrate each step to motivate yourself to begin the next step. Take a pause and treat yourself to dinner with a friend before you move on to the next step.

Be mindful that the next step is indeed the beginning of a new project that will get you one step closer to a finished product. But each step is significant.

However, what I have learned while talking to students or emerging creatives is that some people get stuck in the idea phase of a project without ever putting pen to paper.

The following are three lessons I’ve learned to overcome the most common reasons people find themselves stuck in their creative process.

Lesson 1: Honor the gestation process

Too many creatives abandon an idea for a project before it has had the time to gestate. Or they start a project too soon before the gestation period is complete.

Either way, mishandling or interrupting the gestation of an idea could lead to the premature abandonment or failure of a project. The gestation process, which often takes place in one’s headspace, or in the form of notetaking, should be honored as its own early draft. Be mindful and make a “note to self” when you are in the gestation period for a new project. And more importantly, create the mental space for the idea to take roots and grow. Some examples of the gestation period are, but not limited to, the title or “working title” of a new play, one’s fixation on a current event or a slice of history, or an image.

Lesson 2: Don’t stifle fixation with originality

A chronic obsession with originality is like a creative repellent.

While many of us are inspired by the work of others, no one can duplicate the magic of another creative. What makes a project original is the vessel it is filtered through. Therefore, originality is inevitable, because it is as singular as a fingerprint. Your fingerprint. I have been in conversations with creatives who are more concerned with creating something original than creating something.

The simplest solution is to just create. You, the vessel and creator of the work, are the originator.

Lesson 3: Don’t juggle with too many balls in the air

There are several reasons for juggling too many projects without finishing, which often leads to limited bandwidth for completion and unproductivity, like believing that your next idea is your best idea, or trying not to pigeonhole yourself (also not your concern), etc. However, finishing is a talent. It’s a skill one has to develop through practice. Practice finishing your projects and strengthening your finishing-muscles.

I’ve often thought there should be more courses on how to develop and strengthen the skill of discipline for generative creatives like playwrights. If more playwrights paid attention to the discipline it takes to complete a project, our work would create more jobs in the theater and may springboard more careers for actors or other collaborators.

Discipline is its own skill in the creative process, and it may be what separates the weak from the strong. This is a “tough” and relatively dense industry and talent is subjective, yet discipline is rarely ignored.

TyLie Shider is an American playwright, poet, and journalist who was born and raised in New Jersey and lives in Minneapolis. TyLie was named the inaugural ArtYard Playwright Fellow in 2023 and was the inaugural playwright-in-residence at ArtYard in 2022. He is a two-time recipient of the Jerome Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center and an I Am Soul playwright-in-residence at the National Black Theatre. The portrait of TyLie Shider at top is by Zainabu Jallo.