I’m a writer (by night). I really love writing. I want to be a disgustingly successful writer.
Now, according to the internet, this is how writer’s write:
This image is pleasing to the eye and makes writing look fun. You might look at it and think “yeah, totally I could write. That’s such a great idea”.
I may or may not be writing this very post on a Macbook pro with my coffee and smart phone haphazardly scattered about on a wooden tabletop.
If you’re looking at pictures like the one above and thinking it would be cool to be a writer, you don’t really want to write. You can admit it, really you just want to sit under a big shady oak, with a macbook air and a caramel latte the size of your head, because it looks trendy and hipster. It also looks pretty easy.
Except that it’s not. Not the actual writing part.
Writing takes effort, persistence and concentration. It takes skill and prerequisite knowledge. In order to be a writer, you have to write. There’s no shortcuts, and no one will be playing eye of the tiger in the background.
Writing means constantly straining for creative inspiration, pounding away on the keyboard, letting the creativity flow and pushing the self criticism monster to the back of your mind. Not just that but you actually have to learn how to write (Yeah I know it’s on my to do list). You have to take writing courses, read books, study grammar and punctuation, syntax, language, passive and active voice, etc. This stuff is hard, and sometimes (OK often) boring.
The same goes for anything that adds value to the universe.
No one is going to pay you money for something they could have done by themselves in five minutes. If you want to add value to the universe, you have to give it something valuable, something that you can’t just pull out of a hat.
At some point you are required to exert a level of mental or physical effort that no amount of coffee or aesthetics can help you with. Most people will reach that critical point and stop.
The reason most people stop short of that critical moment, is because the source of your motivation to take action was most likely some fleeting inspiration. Some clever advertisement, a movie, a song, a new years resolution, even a simple ‘aha’ moment can give you this motivation.
Fleeting inspiration is motivation sugar and like real sugar, it gives you a quick burst of energy, but is very temporary. Without anything to sustain it, it will quickly fizzle out.
Motivation sugar is not necessarily a bad thing. For some people motivation sugar can be just what they need to get them started.
Another reason you will quit is because the amount of effort required was grossly underestimated. You were expecting that motivation sugar to be the persistent fire pushing you through, then when the motivation sugar runs out, you have nothing else to get you through. It is here that most people will question the goal.
You will be told that if you have a clear plan, and you have clear, well defined goals, and you have a ‘why’, and do a bunch of other simple sounding steps, then you will be able to stay on track and stay focused. But these organizational hacks, despite being very useful, will still only get you so far.
When you hit that wall, you’ll ask yourself why is this so hard? I mustn’t be good enough. Maybe this isn’t for me after all.
Maybe it’s not for you, but that is not because it’s hard, and it’s definitely not because you’re not good enough.
Everything is hard. You have to expect this. Sometimes you will hate the in-between.
The in-between? This is the part in between having a fantastic idea, and seeing come to fruition. It’s all the dirty work. For a blogger this starts at the great idea and ends when you hit publish.
In other words…
You have to learn to do things that you hate, if you want to accomplish things that you love.
For this you need grit. It requires deliberate practise, deliberate choices. You have to make the very conscious choice to see something through, and to put yourself on the line when it matters.
The only other thing that can really help is pressure.
There’s a reason that uni students can produce exceptional quality work 24 hours before a deadline. They’re under huge amounts of pressure. They have (essentially) no choice.
When you’re an employee, you have work to do. If you don’t do it, you’ll lose your job. That’s pressure.
Besides this you’re on your own. When you don’t have a monkey on your back, doing hard things means making hard choices and being realistic about the effort required. If all you have to keep you going is motivation sugar, you’re almost certainly going to fail. You have to be deeply determined.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though.
I said previously that ‘almost anything worth doing, is really, really hard’. When I said ‘worth doing’, I meant that it really is worth doing, because the outcome will pay huge dividends in some practical way and also to your sense of self worth.
Whether it’s losing 50kgs, or changing careers, or saving someone from eternal judgement. You have to make the choice to do something hard.
You won’t always hate it. When you’re committed, when you push through, when you do things you hate, you will learn to appreciate not just the outcome, but you will come to find a satisfaction in the process.
It is a satisfaction that runs deeper than the momentary joy of a hot cup of Joe, or a quick scan of your Facebook feed. It is this satisfaction that can continue to push through the adversity, again, and again, and again.
Success builds upon success, so start with the small wins, but be ready for when the going gets tough, and don’t let it take you by surprise.