“If the people about you are carrying on their business or their benevolence at a pace which drains the life out of you, resolutely take a slower pace; be called a laggard, make less money, accomplish less work than they, but be what you were meant to be and can be. You have your natural limit of power as much as an engine – ten-horse power, or twenty, or a hundred. You are fit to do certain kinds of work, and you need a certain kind and amount of fuel, and a certain kind of handling.” George S. Merriam
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Our boy George knew a thing or two about working hard and working well. The Merriam family were printers, book manufacturers, and booksellers in Massachusetts toward the end of the 18th century. George worked on his father’s farm until he was 15, then became an apprentice in the printing office of his uncle. In 1832, he and his brother Charles established a publishing firm that printed law books, school books, and editions of the Bible and eventually became Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Let’s ponder his advice on pacing and see if we can apply it to our writing:
Forget what other people are doing: No matter how fast or flamboyantly other people are working, their pace isn’t your pace. If the way they work or rush around “drains life life out of you, resolutely take a slower pace.” March to the beat of a “different drummer.” Don’t let the people around you call the tune.
Be who you are: “Be what you were meant to be and can be.” What better advice can any of us follow than this, in work and in life? Once we find out own road and travel it, we find all kinds of opportunities and joyful moments of discovery. We also often find that we can do and be far more than we think we can. On the right path, we discover our true powers – and unleash them.
Know your own natural rhythm: “You need a certain kind and amount of fuel, and a certain kind of handling.” How true this is and how often we ignore this simple truth. We all know pretty well what works for us and what doesn’t when it comes to our own productivity and creativity. With intention and experimentation, we can come up with a way of working that allows us to make steady, satisfying progress without turning ourselves into stress pretzels.
Forget about what’s happening outside with other people, it’s what’s happening inside that counts. Be yourself, with energy and verve. Know how you work best and make it work for you. Bravo, George! Powerful advice to ponder and apply as we all write on!