A funny thing happens as you do the work you’re called to do: you get better at it. You
sometimes get faster at it, and, when that happens, you marvel at the speed. You wonder if you
actually just wrote that proposal, drew a drawing, solved a mathematical equation, or whatever it
was that you were doing.
The sudden ease of that work isn’t a thing to be marveled at; Richard Hugo, speaking to poets,
If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive
those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents
seldom happen to writers who don’t do the work. You will find that you may rewrite and
rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast
and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard
work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is
responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones,
nothing will come. Get to work.
Hugo’s words apply to anything to which you put your attention. You can’t wait for the easy
work. You have to get to work and do it regardless of its ease or difficulty. You have to train
harder and increase your strength so that you can eventually become better and faster.
Find a Mentor
The question you may be asking is how. How do you start? What do you do? Sometimes the
work is overwhelming, and it’s hard to find a good starting point. Writers generally begin with
the first line, but it isn’t always their line. When they’re first starting, they find mentors and
imitate the work of others. So it should be for you. Find a mentor. Imitate someone else’s work and your own style, voice and way of doing things will emerge as you study the work of others.
Do the Work
In his book, ‘The Art of Recklessness’, Dean Young states he doesn’t believe in writer’s block. He goes on to say, “writing well is very easy; it’s writing horribly, the horrible work necessary to get to writing well, that is so difficult one may just not be willing to do it.” The truth is that it’s hard to write the first draft. It’s hard to write the second one, too. It’s also hard to revise, and finally publish it. If you want to get better and faster, though, you have to do the work whatever the work may be. You have to choose to do the horrible work so that you can get to the good.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Your journey is not like anyone else’s. You can learn from the journey of others and you may
even be able to appropriate some of their processes. You cannot, however, travel the same road
they have. Their ease with one task is precipitated by things you don’t know and may not be able
to bear. Similarly, your ability to finish a certain type of work faster than they can is due to your
own experiences, hard work, and sometimes natural affinity.
Remain Humble; Rejoice in Other People’s Successes
When you’re doing the hard work, it’s easy to be humble but difficult to rejoice. The opposite is
true, too. When you’re doing the easy work, it’s easy to rejoice in other people’s successes but
difficult to be humble. You need both humbleness and the ability to rejoice with others despite
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