The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get

I have a lot of quotes pinned over at my Pinterest, and all day they sit there, pretty and wise, but they don't really get much action. I pinned them because they struck a chord with me, but then I forgot about them. Browsing through my boards today, I realized that they'll be of no use to me unless I actually do them some lip service outside of Pinterest, which can be kind of a black hole for all things creative unless you actually put in the time to implement some of your pins.

And that's exactly what I want to write about today. Putting in the time.

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I recently read an interview with author Sue Grafton, whose books I haven't read, but whose advice and thoughts on her career and writing in general resonated with me deeply. At the end, the interviewer asks, "What advice do you have for newer writers?", and the very first thing Grafton says is, "My big gripe about newer writers is they're not willing to put the time in." She goes on to talk about writers who write one book and want to talk to her about editors and agents, and her response is always, "Don't worry, sweetheart, you're not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better."

As I read this, I was thinking to myself, "Those silly writers, don't they know that it's hard to get published that quickly? How could they have such high expectations for themselves?" I sat there feeling all high and mighty with my obvious knowledge of the craft of writing, but then it hit me: at least they've written something.

I haven't written a single word of anything even resembling a novel, even though it's become one of the biggest goals of my life. I have this blog, which counts for something, but do you know how much time I spend sitting here behind my computer screen, looking at pictures of people doing things, reading articles and advice columns that other people wrote, and wishing that I could have what they have; do what they do? All of my time. All of it. That's how much time I spend doing those things. I take the time to write these blog posts, and then I read, read, read about writing instead of writing, writing, writing a book.

I'm not saying that reading isn't helpful. Advice is good. Reading fiction and nonfiction, learning the writing styles of others, expanding my vocabulary: all of these are useful things. But how useful they are only matters if I actually put them to use. And this isn't just true in the field of writing. This is true in all endeavors, whether it be trying to become a better cook or training for a marathon. All the recipes and all the running tips in the world don't mean a thing unless the person reading them is willing to put in the time and just do them.

Dreaming of doing big things with our lives is vital, but even more vital is to not let those dreams become our master (great article, read it). So far, I have let my dreams become my master. I dream about everything I want to accomplish all the livelong day, but then I don't take any action. And no action = no achievements. I have to be willing to struggle a little, write stuff that sucks, and get some dirt under my nails if I want to reach even the mildest level of success. As tough as that knowledge might be to accept, it helps that it's also a beautiful truth. How much more will I appreciate the outcome if I know I suffered a little and put in the time to deserve it? And how much more amazing will that outcome be? Who knows, with a little bit of hard work, I might just get lucky.

Happy day!