Lordy, am I tired. Tired of work, tired of meetings, tired of diapers and dirty dishes. Sick to death of revising the same damn book proposal again and again. I’ve been writing this proposal since last March, when I wrote the first draft during my spring break. Since then it has been revised and resubmitted to my editor seven times. I no longer remember why I wanted to write this book in the first place.
Ask any writer, editor, publisher, or agent and they will tell you that success in writing and publishing is all about persistence. I believe that. I also believe that there must be hope for my book, or the editor would have rejected it outright. She has put tremendous time and energy into working with me on these revisions, which means she hasn’t given up on either me as a writer or on my idea. This gives me hope, but it doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I’m slogging through a lake full of concrete.
I need to reboot. I need to rediscover my passion, my enthusiasm, and my love for this project. Although I hate to admit it, I also need to focus and work harder than I have ever worked before. It’s time for me to dig deep and find it in me to revise this proposal once again and write this book once and for all.
The original meaning of enthusiasm is to be inspired or possessed by a divine presence. Some people go to church to be possessed by a divine presence. I read.
Specifically, I read about or watch movies about people who have achieved greatness.Watching the process that leads to excellence is when I am possessed by the holy spirit. Educator Sir Ken Robinson addresses this in one of speeches:
“An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak. When you’re present in the current moment. When you are resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing. When you are fully alive.”
There are two things that are guaranteed to make me feel fully alive. One is reading great writing, and the other is writing. Lately, I have been reading about hard work, brutally hard work, and how it can lead to success. It’s an old-fashioned idea that’s making a comeback.
In Amy Chua’s controversial new parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother she argues that “nothing is fun until you’re good at it.” While I’m not here to debate the merit or lack thereof of her parenting strategies, I would agree with this quote while making one slight amendment. I would say that nothing is fun until you’ve practiced it consistently. For me, this has been true of everything from writing to running to video games to yoga. As a teacher, I would argue that many students hate reading because they don’t do enough of it. You have to be fluent, moving past the point of reading and decoding one word at a time, before you can get lost in a story.
The reason I struggle with writing, the reason it fills me with gut-wrenching anxiety, is because I don’t do enough of it. I don’t throw myself into it wholeheartedly, embracing the challenge and loving the fact that it’s hard. I recently read an amazing blog post titled, “Blood, Sweat and Words: How Badly Do You Want This?” in which the author talks about how Mark Wahlberg spent five years trying to get his movie The Fighter made, a movie that was just nominated for a number of Academy Awards, and that he trained as a boxer during that entire five year period. This reminded me of Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan, a movie that she trained for eight hours a day for over a year, starving herself and learning to dance as well as someone who had spent a lifetime learning ballet. Her award-winning performance is extraordinary, and I take strange comfort in reading interviews in which she says it was the hardest thing she ever did.
In Geoff Colvin’s book Talent is Overrated he argues that it takes ten thousand hours of hard work to master a skill at the level of a world-class performer. Working at it for three hours a day, that’s approximately ten years. I can’t think of anything that I’ve worked at consistently for three hours a day, except watching television.
It’s time for my writing apprenticeship to begin.
There’s an amazing scene at the end of Black Swan in which a dancer who doubted herself all along finally grows wings and becomes a swan. She is possessed by a divine spirit, she has enthusiasm.
I can’t wait to fly.