This is part three of a series on creativity.
I still believe in this one as much as the day I wrote it. Don’t give up. Take the long view. Hard work can cure almost anything.
“I would have to work hard tomorrow. Work could cure almost anything, I believed then, and I believe it now.”Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Hard work is many things. We live in a complicated, fast world, surrounded by distractions. Getting down to work can be a way to free yourself of all things extraneous. It can be a stress reliever, a form of meditation. Conversely, it can be punishment for enjoying yourself too much the night before. Whatever the reason, hard work is tunnel vision.While you’re working, the only thing that exists is you and the light at the end.
The quote at the beginning of this article is from A Moveable Feast, a narrative account of Hemingway’s time as a poor young writer living in Paris. The book is filled with advice on living, on writing, and on the importance of discipline and hard work. It also contains stories about his friends and contemporaries. But this quote in particular stuck with me — because I believe it, too.
When we embrace hard work, we find an immense release in it. At the end of the day, when work is over, the world returns and we are free to enjoy it. Now we can go where we please. Our feet feel light, our heads feel empty, our stomachs feel hungry. Another day of hard work has cured us of whatever burden we started with.
What It Takes
No one said it was easy.
As Hemingway knew (and as every professional writer, gymnast, jockey, and chef also knows) hard work takes discipline and patience, especially over time. Getting down to work is a new challenge every day. Anyone can work hard once a week for an hour. To do it for eight hours a day, seven days a week, over any number of years… that’s the real challenge.
Of course, you can’t start out at top speed; you would burn yourself out. If your goal was weight loss, the equivalent would be running on a treadmill at level 10 for an hour the first day you’ve ever used a treadmill. The only thing that will do is guarantee injury and put you off from future attempts.
Successful hard work over time is something you have to work towards in potable chunks. The important thing is to know that it’s within your grasp, and that it pays off.
What It Gives
Writing is my zen. I know from experience that after I sit down and write — when I work hard and give it my all — I will feel better afterward. Whatever your calling is, hard work at your particular talent is better stress relief than almost anything. Zen aside, there are practical reasons to appreciate hard work if you are the type that likes to measure your progress in quantifiable ways.
Say, for example, that your goal is to build your own house. One day you learn to hang drywall. Another you learn how to frame a window or shingle a roof. Maybe learning how to shingle a roof takes three weeks. However long it takes, each day of hard work will bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal. One day, you will have the knowledge to build your house.
Hard work will never disappoint you because something is always being accomplished. Even if, as a writer, you spend six months writing a novel and realize when it’s done that it’s dreadful, you’ll have learned something every day you worked on it. It might be disappointing that you have to chuck your manuscript into the fire, but I promise you won’t make the same mistakes again.
Another reason to respect hard work:
“Practice makes perfect.”
Sure, we may be only human. Perhaps that’s why we can never attain true perfection, but each day of practice sure brings you closer. As a bonus, the more you get used to using your own unique skill set, the more confident you will be in your abilities. Hard work fosters faith in yourself.
All the qualities that hard work demands, like discipline, patience, confidence and persistence do not come naturally to most of us. For example, I am a very impatient person by nature. I fidget when I sit still for any length of time. I used to skip classes in college simply because I couldn’t sit through them. In my mind, it was better not to go at all than to suffer through an hour of foot-bouncing boredom.
But the more I commit myself to working hard at writing, the deeper I find my reserves of patience to be. And not just for writing, but with other things, like my workout schedule and my job. I even find that after a good few days work I have more patience for bad drivers. And let me tell you, there are plenty of bad drivers on the road.
So you see, hard work gives a lot more than it takes. It doesn’t happen overnight. Learning to enjoy hard work is no cakewalk; it’s a struggle to get started most days. But it is within your reach…and the benefits far outweigh the cost. Need money? Hard work can cure that. Stressed out? Try working harder on the things you love. Family trouble? Work hard to fix it.
In the end, you will find that hard work can cure almost anything.
(Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs generic license.)
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