“Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing yourself to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.”
Mary Lou Retton, Olympic gymnast champion
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
Working hard = serious fun = a habit.
I love the simple strategy that Mary Lou gives us here. Her formula called to mind words of wisdom from Aristotle and T.S. Eliot — and my friend and mentor, Dr. Rob Gilbert,* who likes to say that there’s “nothing more satisfying than wrestling with something difficult that you really care about.”
Embracing our writing as “serious fun” offers so many fruitful rewards, doesn’t it?
First and foremost, thinking of working hard as fun endows it with a feeling of childlike excitement. Having fun is, well, fun!, so we are more likely to keep going. And if we approach our work in a lighthearted, curious way just as kids do, we are more open to delicious discoveries and word windfalls.
Second, when we see our work as serious fun, we take it seriously, but in an energizing way. It’s not a burden, but a soul-nourishing activity. We’re giving effort — giving our time and mental energy to something that matters to us — and that somewhere down the line, we will reap the benefits.
Third, we get self-satisfaction — a sense of pleasure and a job well done — from knowing that we are on the right track — that we are in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing: working hard to improve our writing craft and boost our chances of publication and reaching our desired audience. And when working hard is satisfying, we are more likely to make it a habit — something we are psyched about doing over and over again. This enables us to steadily move forward and make progress in our writing.
Fourth, when we push ourselves to the limit: when we are totally absorbed and when we play hard and long just as kids do, we learn so much about ourselves!
We learn how much fun it is to really stretch our writing muscles and push ourselves farther than we ever thought we could. We learn that there’s always more gas in the tank. We surprise ourselves by coming up with creative ideas we didn’t even know were in us. How much fun is that!
So let’s see our work today as serious fun and enjoy ourselves as we all write on!
* Be sure to check out Rob’s wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690).