Drudgery: What Separates Those Who Dream From Those Who DO
Drudgery—enduring the tired, tedious and unremarkable chores—is what makes the difference between those who dream and those who do.
Why am I talking about this? Because recently I saw some quote scroll past on social media. It was something (of course) posted by one of those super happy ‘life coach’ people.
Though I’m certain the quote was meant to inspire, it hit a sour note with me. It seemed dismissive of the pain, sacrifice and—yes, suffering—of those willing to dream, and then stick to that dream.
I don’t recall the quote’s exact wording (they’re all so similar), but the saccharin essence was the same. Apparently, if you don’t LOVE every single moment of what you’re doing, then maybe you don’t have the right career.
Keep searching! Dream! You have a right to be HAPPY! If it isn’t making you HAPPY, then MOVE ON!
As a social media expert, my role is to guide creative professionals and train y’all to get the most out of social media (without selling your creative souls). My mission has always been to help writers use their imagination along with digital tools to craft their brand.
I have zero desire to lobotomize creative people and turn y’all into sales bots.
The ‘brand’ serves to help writers curate content most likely to attract those who dig what they have to offer. This is working smarter, not harder. It’s simple, Stephen King’s fans are NOT the same as Amy Tan’s.
The content eventually evolves into what we call ‘our author platform.’ From there (our platform), we can create relationships/friendships and cultivate a passionate audience who might not only buy our books, but who might also eagerly spread the word. Yay!
Words like brand, platform, sales, audience, etc. might be dirty words for some people, but I don’t have such luxuries. I doubt many people do. Even mega-authors whose NAMES ALONE sell millions/billions of books use social media.
See, writing—much like any worthy undertaking—comes part and parcel with a lot of drudgery and loads of stuff we’d rather not do.
Learning Curve Drudgery
A lot of folks believe that just because they’re proficient in their native language, they are then automatically qualified to write amazing fiction. Yeah…no.
Not judging at all. I used to be one of those people. I had zero concept how ridiculously hard it was to craft a readable story, let alone a good one.
Writing a novel that could span anywhere from 50K to 150K words (depending on genre) that manages to grab then hold a reader’s interest? AHHHH! Balancing plot points, plot arc, character, dialogue, scene and sequel, A-lines, B-lines, on and on?
It doesn’t take too long to understand why many great authors turned to booze and drugs.
*gives Poe a pass on the whole ‘heroin addiction’ thing*
Far too many writers start out believing the first novel they write is perfect, and if anyone counters this? They fall apart. Some give up. A few hire ‘editors’ who are happy to tell them ‘the other meanie editor was totes unprofessional and it’s fiiiine to have fourteen POVs all from cats.’
Others double-down on the denial and write a sequel or—God help us all—a series of equally crappy books that don’t sell.
Because learning to write novels is hard.
I’ve been through this, myself. My two main mentors both made me cry…a LOT. And I am NOT a person who cries.
These mentors were nothing like my writing group. My writing group was so encouraging!
Bob and Les didn’t tell me my writing was unicorn tears, they told me it was more like what might come out of the other end of a unicorn.
No, not a unicorn. A hyena with tapeworm and a bad case of mange.
I didn’t love writing the same stuff over and over. Guess what? Didn’t love reading and rereading the books they recommended I study.
Come to think of it, I didn’t love putting out my best only for it to come back with so much red I wondered if it had been hit by a bus then SHOT before they returned it.
Sure I could have quit. Thought about it a lot. A lot.
Because shouldn’t I LOOOVE every moment of what I do? But, I didn’t quit because I wanted to become an excellent writer. I’m still a work in progress.
My critique group were fantastic cheerleaders, which we need…but not necessarily to make us better.
Cheerleaders look super pretty, but cheerleaders don’t train touchdowns.
Coaches who call out bad form, terrible plays, and awful habits create winners. These experts are hired to criticize, make a player watch footage over and over and, if warranted, do cherry-pickers until the player wants to DIE. Might seem ‘mean’ but THIS is what will help that player make touchdowns.
Drudgery. Not pom-pom waving.
There’s drudgery in the actual writing. Oh no! Yes, you heard it here first. Writing, while one of the BEST jobs in the world, contains more than its fair share of suckage.
The first draft can be loads of fun, until the mire of Act Two where you find yourself contemplating sudden and unexpected alien abduction—either for yourself to spring you from writing, or for your characters because you’ve messed up somewhere in the plot and written yourself into a corner.
Becoming successful in writing (or anything really) is never in the BIG things we do. It’s the compilation of a lot of small acts that build up over time.
It is showing up day after day even when we’d rather get a root canal than figure out what went sideways somewhere between page 1 and page 400.
We have to research, proofread, edit, revise, and all of this takes focus and time and pain. By the time a book is ‘ready’ to be published, odds are you’ll hate your own book and hope you never have to read it again.
***FYI: The feeling passes…eventually. Most of the time. Maybe.
For those who want to traditionally publish, there is the drudgery of writing synopses and query letters and researching agents. Add the drudgery of the actual querying and subsequent waiting.
Meanwhile, most of us have day jobs and laundry and family members who expect to be fed every day #HighMaintenance.
Oh, and make sure to start writing the next book 😉 (refer to the love-fest above).
For those who choose a non-traditional path, we have to locate and hire the best people. There may be multiple iterations of a cover. Then, if you believe you’ve found all your typos in your seventeen passes? *clutches sides laughing*
And if you believe the proofreaders and editors caught all them too? Maybe, but..
On top of this, add in bookkeeping, record keeping, accounting, building a platform, understanding keywords and SEO and blah, blah, blah.
Suffice to say that YES, writing is a WONDERFUL job! I wouldn’t be here fifteen years later if it was all bad. Yet, I do have to confess that choosing to become a writer showed me the worst parts of my character…in Technicolor.
I didn’t start blogging because I EVER believed my blog would be what it is today with millions of unique visitors. Want to know why I began blogging? I had ZERO self-discipline.
I’d become a person who didn’t want to do anything that I didn’t LOVE. If I wasn’t having FUN, then clearly I’d chosen the wrong career, right?
The Drudgery Delineation
People who reach their goals and dreams are different for sure. Are they more gifted? Talented? Unusually good-looking? Perhaps. But, more often than not, these folks excel at handling the boring parts of the dream.
Recently, I finished James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits (which I HIGHLY recommend), and he said something that piqued my attention:
The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty. Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next. As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy—even if the old one was still working.
~ James Clear, Atomic Habits
Everyone wants the ripped body, but few are willing to show up every day, month after month and year after year, even when the weather is miserable. The same can be said for writing.
You have NO idea how often I hear, ‘If I only had the TIME, I’d write more.’ As if time is laying around in the couch cushions with the petrified Cheerios and the TV remote no one’s seen Twilight was big.
Hey, I have been guilty here, too. Still can fall into old (bad) habits if I fail to remain vigilant.
The reason they believe they must FIND TIME? It’s likely because they’ve hit the part of the writing process that’s actual WORK. It’s ceased to be a glorious high.
And, if they don’t start a new book (chasing the high), then they put off writing altogether using excuses more creative than their plot ideas.
Hey! Told y’all I have been guilty too…so no hating 😛 .
Yet, when we look at anything worth achieving, from writing an amazing book to being a great parent to running a profitable business, we see that it is how these individuals handle the millions of unremarkable unexciting and downright soul-crushing (but necessary) tasks that makes all the difference.
We see the same common denominator in every success story, from the legendary athletes willing to do the same drills over and over until perfected to the entrepreneurs who mined drudgery for the edge they needed to outpace all competition.
Can You Handle Being BORED?
Everyone loves new beginnings. The new relationship with no baggage and all hugs and kisses, the smell of the fresh notebook, the empty page waiting for all of our brilliant ideas. We love the new blog because it holds so much promise.
Then there is the new workout from YouTube, the new diet we found on Instagram, the new craft project we saw on Pinterest….
A lot of us fixate on whether we can handle the BIG moments, the MAJOR crises but I’d actually offer different advice. Back at the start of the year I recommended that, before we made any New Year’s Resolutions, we ask the hard question.
Could we fall in love with pain and process as much as the end result? Everyone loves the summit selfie but few want the climb. It comes with hypoxia and pretty good odds you’ll die and no one will be able to claim your frozen corpse…ever.
Many of us LOVE the idea of six-pack abs…but we LOVE tacos more. We struggle after a few weeks. Why? Because we are tired, sore, and even though we’ve been working out for a WHOLE MONTH, we still don’t have a ripped physique.
Heck, we can’t even see a muscle. We’re tired of the pile of smelly clothes, the aches and pains and having to measure all our food. It isn’t FUN. In fact, it’s downright tedious.
We don’t LOVE the gym, the job, the book, the YouTube channel anymore because it’s day after day of nothing all that special…and pain.
Lots of that.
Yet, all these small actions add up over time. When we embrace the dull actions and commit, we will eventually ignite. Ray Bradbury poetically asserted paper had an ignition point of 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The actual number is about thirty degrees higher.
Paper will burst into flames at about 480 degrees Fahrenheit (without being directly exposed to flame).
Using this analogy, let’s take our metaphorical paper and heat it to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then 250, then 300, then 440, then 451. Boy, this is boring and taking a LONG time and taking energy. Nothing is happening.
Heat it to 460, then 470, then 477 and then throw up your hands because paper NEVER sets on fire without a high-budget marketing plan…I mean match.
Or, maybe there is a marked transformation somewhere between 477 degrees and 482 degrees. At 477 degrees Fahrenheit all looks the same. Oh but add in a little more energy and IGNITION. And this ignition all occurs within a range of a couple degrees.
The same goes for becoming a successful author (as in a professional who’s PAID to play with our imaginary friends). A major key to success largely rests on how we handle the boring parts. Can we keep going, keep putting on the heat when it looks as if nothing is happening?
‘Success’ doesn’t have a canonized ‘ignition point.’ If it did, being successful would be easy.
If I knew I had to write five books, three series, add in a hundred blogs and forty three good reviews to reach literary stardom? Dang skippy I’d stick with it. There wouldn’t be ANY drudgery, because I’d have certainty.
But that’s the problem.
The ignition point for succeeding in anything is anything but certain (and might not even exist in some cases). It differs between people, generations, goals, industries, abilities, etc. We DON’T KNOW and THAT is precisely why drudgery can so easily undo us if we let it.
In the End
I want all your dreams to catch fire—your dreams to write, create, to be an excellent parent or partner, to achieve the remarkable.
If you can appreciate that every masterpiece began as a blank canvas, a hunk of marble, an ugly cement foundation, a sketch, or an idea and that IN BETWEEN there was a lot of wash, rinse, repeat? You’re on your way to reaching those goals.
We’re rarely limited by our talent, yet we’re all too often hobbled by impatience. Drudgery makes us cave in too soon. It takes time to hone skills, learn a craft, build an audience, etc. Just keep pressing and hopefully you’ll see your ignition point and it will be the most beautiful light you’ve ever seen.
Then you get to do it again for the next goal 😀 . *smoochies*
But, you’ll be better and stronger because you know to expect the span of suck before the breakthrough!
Again, I read pretty much every book published on self-help, business, entrepreneurship, so it’s SUPER tough to impress me. Atomic Habits did contain a lot of the standard success principles, but there were also PLENTY of moments that made me stop and really think. Angles I’d not seen explored before.
If you get a chance, pick up a copy of James Clear’s Atomic Habits.
What Are Your Thoughts?
I love hearing from you! Do you struggle with the doldrums in your dreams? Is it hard not to just start something new? Have you been starting over so much that maybe that’s why you aren’t further along? Are you so sick of your book you want to cry? #GotTheTShirt
Don’t you wish we had the magic ‘temperature’ where our dreams LIT UP? Some way to know if we were close? Or even heading in the correct direction? Have you struggled with learning to finish what you start? Been too easily distracted?
Talk to me! Oh, by the way…
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
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