There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him butthrough his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. From Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every once in a while, if you listen very closely to the conversations and actions that swirl in and around you on a given day, a message emerges. Sometimes, it is so epiphanic that you feel as if life has changed immeasurably; at other times, the message is a reminder to slow down, speed up, enjoy the moment, discard the past, keep the pace.
Today, the message arose from several conversations with fellow writers and a few books that found their way on to my path. It was not necessarily life-changing; instead, it was more of a nudge, a new set of blinders to wear and stay the course.
The message? Work Hard or Go Home.
Now, I need to explain this a little, I think. There are some things in our lives that we really want. I don’t mean like a new iPad or a Lexus; I’m referring to the things that define who we are—training to run a 5K, writing a book, getting a degree. These are not easy goals to accomplish. They require, well, hard work.
If the time isn’t right for you to do this particular thing, then don’t lament about it; stop crying about how life is too hard, your kids keep you too busy, or it’s just not the right time. That’s all okay. Really. I’m there all the time. The trick is to let it go. Don’t stress about it or put yourself through some kind of guilt trip that you couldn’t reach your goal. You don’t have to abandon it entirely; you just need to select more appropriate goals for where you are in your life right now.
If this time IS right, though, then it’s time to take it seriously and push through, make no excuses, and realize success. If you want to run that 5K, and you’ve never run one before, it’s going to take some hardcore, consistent training to get you ready. Same with that book you want to write. You are not going to piece it together by writing a page here and a paragraph there; you need to devote blocks of time over a consistent period of time to establish your voice, your flow, your pulse of the story.
It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s all worth it. Finishing the race, the novel, the degree requirements—none of it would be possible without that hard, hard work.
This was a nice reminder to me today, as I think about some of the writing projects I’ve started recently. I’ve been lamenting that they are going to take too long to finish.
Too bad. I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, and nothing is going to cure these pity-party blues but putting pen to paper and resume writing.
I hope you find the time to get the things done that define you; remember, though, don’t beat yourself up if this isn’t the best time. We can expend a lot of wasted energy frustrated with ourselves for not achieving unrealistic expectations. Better to wait it out and shift your energies to where they are really needed.