“Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as a result of
hard work.” Booker T. Washington
“Nothing will work unless you do.” Maya Angelou
Over the weekend, I saw a long line of shiny yellow school buses parked in a row. Soon, they’ll be filling up with bright shiny little faces on their way to school with bright shiny notebooks and hearts still filled with summer. Yellow school buses always remind me of one of my favorite things in the world: Yellow pencils full of words just waiting to be written.
Now that summer is winding down and school bus season is almost upon us, it’s a great time to reflect on how we want the next phase of our writing life to unfold and where we’d like it to take us. Whether you have a play, short stories, a novel or a memoir or a mix of these projects on the drawing board, it’s a great time to remember what we sometimes long to forget, especially in the lazy, hazy days of summer: Steady doses of hard work are required for anything worth having.
My beloved, trusty Century Dictionary says it all in its first definition under “work” — “Exertion directed to produce or accomplish something (as hard work; hand-work; brain-work).” That about sums it up, doesn’t it? If we want to keep moving forward and making progress with our craft, then we’re in for a season of hard work, hand-work, and brain-work. Let’s unpack this:
Hard work: With all the allure attached to inspiration, imagination, and creativity when it comes to the writing game, this ingredient sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. But let’s remember what every working writer knows: the muse shows up when we do (see Muse Management) or, as Madeleine L’Engle once said, “Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.”
Hand-work: With all the technical tools we have at our fingertips: computers, digital calendars and idea generators, and spreadsheets, it’s easy to forget that writing at its simplest level is hand-work. Sometimes, just untethering ourselves from technology and sitting quietly with a pad and pencil can be the best launching pad for a new project — or a stalled one.
Brain-work: Writing is hard work. It takes focus, mental alertness, and lots of stamina. So let’s treat our wonderful minds and bodies with all the love and attention they deserve (check out my recent brain posts for helpful tips).
OK, let’s climb on board our own personal yellow school bus and write on!