If Life and Work Was Easier, Would It Really Be Better?

swans on Mississippi River

“It’s the doing of work that makes work easier, the simple doing of work no matter how hard it may feel to begin.” ~ Julia Cameron, “The Sound of Paper”

Of course it’s true, what Cameron wrote. Yet I wish for magic, Kaboom! Kapow! instantaneous results from any effort put forth.

I dream of the day I wake up and words pour freely out of my head, I suddenly grasp depth of field and know how to perfectly operate all the settings on my camera, and I ride my bike effortlessly up a hill of slippery snow and zig zag through trees without holding my breath.

Kings Island and Mississippi River

I look at other people’s work and this seems to be the case for THEM… All those THEMS out there are not working so hard.

Only if you talk to THEM, you discover that they have been working for years, probably their work has been rejected hundreds of times (if it’s the kind of work that relies on an audience) or if it’s a physical challenge, it’s something that took time. Along the way there were setbacks. You could even say that all those THEMS have tasted failure somewhere along the way.

But I believe failure only exists if you let others opinions or the difficulties you encounter discourage you and make you quit.

ducks and crow on Mississippi River

Overnight successes don’t exist. Perhaps there are “quick” successes, but I wonder if quick success is followed by quick obscurity. If you haven’t learned how to weather the storm and persevere, how can you possibly have the stamina required for staying power?

Success itself is a fickle thing. People are always looking for something fresh and new. You can never just sit back on your laurels* (whatever those are).

It’s not easy to resist throwing on the camouflage and hunting for approval and popularity. Today you can put something you created online in an instant and see how many “Likes” “Follows” “Retweets” “Favorites”  and comments you can get. It can be like a drug, and you are the rat pressing the lever over and over.

dog in the woods

I don’t want to be a rat pushing a lever. What I want are:

  • Real connections with people
  • To have my work in some way serve (not sure what that means… something like supporting others, providing helpful information, entertaining, etc.)
  • To improve my writing and photography
  • To enjoy the practice and process of what I’m doing

I listened to a podcast by Gabriela Pereira** called “Get Motivated and Get Writing.” One thing she said that especially stuck with me was a restatement of Isaac Newton’s theory that  “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.”

In other words, it’s easier to finish something you are already working on. And once you start that work, it’s best to keep it going, no matter how small of a thing you do each day.

dog walking in snow

I’ve found this to be true. Even if I only have fifteen minutes to work on my book, I can open the files, maybe reread something I wrote, rearrange a few chapters, and I decide what comes next so I have direction when I return to my work the next day. Leaving the project with an idea of what I’ll work on tomorrow is a good way of letting my subconscious work on it while I’m offline.

It’s not that magic never happens. I sometimes sit down at my computer to find the next chapter is already in my head when I go to write it. But I’d never get to see such magic if I didn’t first show up. If I wasn’t willing to simply do the work.

*Of course I had to look up what laurels are. I thought they were a person’s thighs to tell the truth… They are trees whose leaves were used to make wreaths in ancient Greece, which were a symbol of victory and success.

**I highly recommend Gabriela Pereira’s website and podcasts for writers. Besides a bunch of great information, she also has this cool word prompt tool called Writer Igniter if you are struggling to come up with something to write about or need a good warm up session.

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  1. I’ve never met an overnight success, but I have heard comparing yourself to others is a creativity killer! I was recently contemplating a current challenge, thinking out loud to a friend, and they said, “It’s so cool how you can just regroup and try it another way,” and it made me realize— that is what failures, many failures over years, has given me– that approach that a failure isn’t finale, and no doesn’t always mean “no” (unless related to someone’s persona boundary or whatever– i certainly don’t mean this in any creepy way). The point is, I have learned to keep going UNTIL i solve/succeed, because I have failed so many times (at first!).

    1. Agree! It’s like looking at it as an experiment or trial. If one way of doing something doesn’t work, tweek it. You have to be self aware enough to not change something essentially you, your style, about it though. To not change because you see what is working for someone else and you think you need to do that too. So now I’ve come full circle back to not comparing…

  2. Oh… I know what are you talking about. I try to follow my intuition, to make (or explore or search for) those things that mean, that make sense to me… I try to believe that popularity counts nothing but stop looking around is almost impossible…

    1. I’m taking steps to limit how much time I spend on line looking because it is so hard to resist the comparison. When I start to feel cutoff or alone, instead of checking out Facebook or Twitter, there are blogs (like yours) I visit, written by people I can relate to, that I know will inspire me rather than make me feel like a loser.

  3. I agree with you here Maery, it’s also about real connections for me. Writing is such a solitary occupation it’s important to remember to connect. I can also vouch for what you’re saying about motion and at this time my lack of motion is making me even more motionless…A vicious circle that is very hard to break.
    Your photos have the right field of depth and your words carry the emotion you want to convey, keep at it and it will all work out. <3

  4. I think that you’re right. I, too, tend to think that other people just “have it” and never had to work at “it”. But, you are so right – every one of those people has worked hard to achieve the level where they are and has tasted failure many times. In fact, failure is probably a big part of what helped them grow.

    I think that enjoying the practice of what you’re doing is the key thing. If you love doing it, then it’s worth your time, imho.

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