Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sweet Sacrifice: The Value of Hard Work

Despite what you’ve read, and despite what you think is the source of your problems, one thing towers above the rest. It can cure many of your symptoms just by acknowledging it.

Ask yourself, are you willing to work hard?

Want better things in life? Then work hard for it. There’s no way around it; if you’re not willing to work hard, no other words will suffice. In that case, what you’re looking for is a cheerleader, not advice, and when the spark of inspiration fades, you’ll be searching for something else to prompt you. In the end, you’ll be right where you started, struggling to scrape together enough motivation to face the disappointing road ahead.

If you’re willing to work hard, say it aloud, and then prove it to yourself. How will you embody those words today? Choose a task that’s been lingering, and attack it with all your might. Before you doze off, ponder the fruits of your labor. No one can give you the success that you desire but you.

So when you work, work hard. Get everything that you came for. Stay up till 4:00 a.m. if you must, but be careful not to sabotage the following day. You need sleep; lack of sleep makes you stupid (a scientific fact). Reduce mistakes by giving your body adequate time to recover. By giving your best effort, objects that once seemed immovable can now be cleared from your path.

When it comes to writing, the hard work lies in editing, not the initial draft. In the beginning, you start with a blank slate; it’s the world of all possibilities, and nothing is out of reach. Getting your ideas onto paper is only the first step; making them work is a different matter.

As you delve deeper into the manuscript, the writing tends to increase in difficultly, especially if you haven’t invested the time to plot it out. I’ve seen authors get stuck on a sentence for an entire week. That’s right, an entire week! When you hit the wall, take a step back. Put down your thoughts, focus on the big picture, and keep moving forward. Problems that have stumped you will resolve themselves once you obtain a clear understanding of how things fit together.

That’s why some writers keep starting new projects rather than finishing old ones. Once they reach the point of pain, suddenly inspiration strikes, and they shoot off in a new direction. I did this myself until I realized what I was doing. Was it laziness or did I just need a break? Perhaps both. Either way, scale back your expectations, silence your mind, and work through the problem rather than throwing in the towel. Take baby steps if necessary. The sooner that you can get this project off your plate, the sooner you can move onto other tantalizing prospects. But finish what’s on your plate first; trust me, plenty of surprises are in store for the project at hand.

If you were hoping for a nice, cushy job, you’ve chosen the wrong profession. Everything is built with words here, one at a time. Sometimes we put down 50,000 before we can say that we’re done, and often times more. Characters, emotions, dialogue and settings are all erected from the soil of simple words, one after another. Writing is a workingman’s craft, and it takes effort to see a book to its fruition.

When challenged, don’t retreat; dig in. Solve the problem, give it your best shot, and do the finest work that you are capable of. Avoid reworking poor prose due to shoddy effort; invest the time and effort necessary to do it right. Make sure that your process is repeatable, and you can recover in time for the next writing session with the same vigor.

At times, writing a book can feel like passing a kidney stone; but if you don’t do the work, it will never get done. When you run into trouble, give yourself a small task, something that you can complete in 10-15 minutes, and build from there. Snare the minnow first, and then work your way up to the bigger fish. It can all feel overwhelming; don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed.

Remember, the only way to the next project is through the existing one. Although it’s fun to keep tinkering with your manuscript, don’t take it to the grave. Give yourself a deadline, and once it passes, move onto the next project. You will become a better author by the number of projects that you complete, not by how often you polish the same bit of text.

If you constantly challenge yourself, working hard comes naturally. In fact, you may not view it as “work” at all. It’s something that you must do, like breathing. Once it becomes habit, your body will be more receptive to supporting the long hours necessary to succeed.

Dump any negative inclinations that you harbor, and put a positive spin on everything you do. By choosing a positive outlook from the start, the workload never seems overbearing. As you invest more time on this higher plane of thinking, new worlds will reveal themselves to you, and the quality of the experience will sharpen. Fear not how you will exert yourself, but what you will miss if you don’t.

Now is your opportunity, and through hard work you will make the most of it, each and every time.

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