Tag: inspiration

Do What You Gotta

It’s an unfortunate truth: we don’t all have the luxury of doing what we love all day, every day.

Some do, and that’s wonderful. The world needs more people who come fully alive and do what they love for the benefit of others as well as themselves. I support them wholeheartedly. But we can’t all do that. Some of us toil. Some of us put aside what we want to fulfill our obligations and make ends meet in a more expedient but less satisfactory fashion.

You have to remind yourself that this is okay.

There’s nothing wrong with committing to a bit of the old day-in day-out. Being as present as possible where you physically are can help make a better future for yourself. Employers like to see reliability and adaptability in their assets, and these attributes can make future employment opportunities easier to secure. From that perspective, putting aside other ambitious is a worthwhile sacrifice.

You also have to remind yourself not to give up.

Our dreams matter, and are worthy of being pursued. Having goals beyond the mundane day-to-day helps us see beyond the inbox, work through the frustations that come from tasks that ultimately have no real impact on us, and give us hope for the future. Our problems are temporary. To paraphrase Theodore Parker (who was himself paraphrased by Martin Luther King Jr), the curve of history is long but it bends towards justice. If you can hold onto what’s good in your life, and strive towards your goals even if your steps on that journey falter, you will see that your setbacks and failures do not matter anywhere near as much as your joyous occasions and your successes.

In the end, our measure is not truly taken in the unfortunate difficulties that hinder us and the oversights and mistakes we are bound to make. We’re going to get in our own way. We’re going to leave aside what we’ve put aside for the sake of our sanity and decompression. These are forgivable, human, and ultimately temporary conditions. If we keep moving forward, if we persevere, if we eventually reach that goal towards which we strive, all of the frustation and all of the shame and all of the despair will evaporate, and satisfaction is all that will be left.

Tomorrow will be a new day, no matter how badly today might go.

Try to remember that, especially when the days begin to turn sour. You can make it. And you will.

Until then, do what you gotta do.

From the Vault: Writing as Mortar

I don’t have a clever lead-in for this, I have a lot coming up this weekend and in the near future, so here’s something from the vault as I work to catch up on things and get a little ahead if I can.

Courtesy askthebuilder.com

Pop quiz, hotshot.

You’re not ready to be a professional writer. You want to keep a steady paycheck, which means a steady job, which means no solid blocks of writing for you. You’ve checked Chuck’s list and felt the crushing weight of reality telling you that being a professional writer just isn’t going to happen. But the need is still there. That thing that makes you want to put words on paper for people to read for no other reason than they make sense, possibly to entertain, and definitely because nobody else in the world writes exactly the way you do.

What do you do? What do you do?

You find a way to keep writing.

Writing as a skill, especially one aimed at earning a living, is like any other. It takes practice, experimentation, practice, failure and even more practice. Training your ability to write is like training a muscle group in your body. You pick up the weights and repeatedly use the muscles to lift them, or you run in a circle or bike the same route over and over again. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more you can do at one time. However, if you have somewhere else to be or something more urgent to do, you can work in a quick burst here and there.

It’s the same with writing. Even if you’re not doing it to earn a living (yet), you can find ways to keep that intellectual muscle in shape. Lunch breaks, mass transit commutes, commercials during a favorite show, loading screens – that’s just a few examples off the top of my head. During any of these snippets of time, you can write. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering or the next bestseller, but it might lead to something earth-shattering or the next bestseller. You won’t know till you try.

Anybody who works out can tell you that having a regimen or a trainer is the best way to stay on track with your goals and remain motivated. For the writer, that means feedback. There are quick, dirty ways to get that, too. Find a forum in your field or genre and see if they allow sample or snippet posting for peer review. Facebook notes are good for this, especially if you have friends following you willing to tell you when something stinks to high heaven. If you’re feeling up to it, start a blog.

Just like when the trainer yells at you to keep you motivated, a peer giving you feedback probably isn’t looking to erode your self-esteem. The abuse is for your benefit. It might sting and you might resent them in the moment for it, but when the end result turns out looking much better than your initial effort, you’ll be thankful for the harsh words. Try not to take things too personally, unless the critic actually starts attacking your person. Remember, friends don’t let friends publish crappy writing.

Most of us can’t become professional writers right out of the box, and some of us just aren’t ready to make that leap yet. We need to lay bricks instead of writing to make a living. However, there’s no reason we can’t work our art into the mortar between those bricks. If you look at a building held together by mortar, some of the gaps between the bricks or stone are larger than others. It adds character to the building. Again, so it is with writing. Some of our stretches of writing between shifts, tasks and days will be longer than others, and some will be far too short. But the overall effect will be a richer life and one that gives us more motivation, as we seek the next gap between bricks to fill with our mortar of words.

The most important thing is to write, and to not stop writing.

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