Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Little By Little, Day By Day

Want to do something? Want to do something worthwhile? Something creative? Maybe something big?

Don't try to get it done this weekend. It doesn't work like that. Sometimes it takes your entire lifetime to get it right.

In fact, usually.

Writing is like that. Writers don't get older, they get wiser, creating great work only in the course of a lifetime, and you can't do a lifetime of work in a month. Much less if you plan on it.
  • Item the first: You can't plan on it, it sort of happens.
  • Item the second: Even if you wanted to plan on it, you wouldn't know what to plan on.
Anyway, doing anything worthwhile takes hours, days, months, years. It shaves away the decades from your allotted time, while you sweat and doubt and struggle. And along the way you also get to throw out most of what you do. Because most of it it is not worth keeping.

So why not just copy someone?

Because they did it, not you. They did it because they loved doing it, and you can't copy love.

Not by copying the product, or the effort, or anything else. You have to be an original, and you get to be an original by sweating away what isn't unique about yourself, over years of time. You become good at something only when you become good at something, and not before.

And you don't know when that will be. Or what it will be. Or who you will be.

Calvin Coolidge: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Where he doesn't quite have it is the "persistence and determination". Both important, in their way, but the real truth is, when you've found something that you can't keep away from, then you've got it.

Something that still requires in the hours.

And it's fine to start small. You should start small. You have the time.

Use your spare time, free moments that you might otherwise kill. Instead of that, give them life by working on your secret. This is true persistence. This is passionate persistence, for a thing, a place, a person, a process. It cannot be copied.

In other words no copying, no frantic mega-projects, no frenzied "multitasking", no faking. Time must unfold in good time. Good time which allows you to become an expert at your own specialty, in a way that no one else can be.

And if you don't make it? You can't know if that will happen. You just have to try. At least if you are being true and following that passion, then you do have a genuine treasure. You have a calling.

Few will agree with what you are doing, or accord it full value, but like the Reverend Sydney Smith you will get to say "Do not assume that because I am frivolous I am shallow; I don't assume that because you are grave you are profound."



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