The finish line always looks so enticing. No matter how far away it is our mind will try to find ways of skipping the bits in between and just being there already. But that would take away most of the fun. We would give ourselves far fewer opportunities to learn, and we would simply be moving from one destination to the next, without really understanding how we got there, or why it was important that we did. We would be unable to enjoy the fruits of our labour because we would have skipped the hard work in between. It would be like a team winning a sports league without having to put in the effort do it. The sense of achievement comes from knowing the other team played hard but you played better on the day.
Still, I know there are times in my life I want to avoid hard work. I look around for the easy way out, the lowest hanging fruit, to sink my teeth into. It is often then I think to myself, ‘Once I’ve done I can relax, maybe play video games for a bit’. Usually that ‘bit’ of time turns into hours and there is little thought to how this choice will affect my wellbeing. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that low hanging fruit is a gateway to the hard work. Start by doing an easy task to get in the right mindset for the more difficult ones. But for me, where I am right now in my life, this leads me away from my destination of hard work.
I love writing. My mind gets lost in whatever world I am creating with words. A blog post is a way to process situations I’ve been involved in and share knowledge with others. A fantasy story is a way of exploring making different decisions, ones I might not make myself, and the effect they have on the world. A poem is way of processing difficult emotions when I don’t really know how to. A song can express joy, or pain, as the reality around us shifts and changes. The nitty gritty and difficult bits of finding the right way to say something especially get my brain juices flowing. I love rewriting sentences to make them more crisp. But even within these worlds of writing there are some tasks that can be a grind. Not the writing or the editing, those are immense fun. Not even checking individual sentences, to ensure characters speak and act the same way throughout a story, or that a lyric or stanza says exactly what I mean it to say. Oh no, even those are thoroughly enjoyable. I’m talking repetitive things like importing text from one program to another, and having to re-add specific formatting, like italic and bold, because the two programs are not completely compatible.
Doing the less fun things is part of getting to the prize. Importing chapters of my book from Google Drive into Scrivener was tedious. It required a completely different mindset. I’d often find myself drifting into editing mode which was extremely unhelpful. Which document had I edited? Had I made it all the way through from the beginning or had I skipped a few chapters and just fixed a few paragraphs in the current chapter, two-thirds through the book? Before I committed my attention to editing I told myself I would import the whole novel. Then, when it was all in Scrivener, a much more intuitive place to organise a book for me, I would edit. The entire manuscript would be in one place and I would know what I was looking at was the current version.
It was a pain. But knowing the goal, to have my draft all in one place ready for editing, was what kept me going. Getting through to the point where I could dive headfirst into editing was the light at the end of the tunnel. My focus drifted at times but the hard work has paid off and I’m now really enjoying diving headfirst into the world. I’m sculpting each sentence to carefully draw the reader in and keep them coming back for more.
My job is a bit like that at times, as I’m sure many can be. The projects we work on are not always ones we feel drawn to invest our time in. Our work is going through a slow patch at the moment and rather than manage my progress through the tedium I’m finding ways of distracting myself. I’ve acknowledged in my mind, and I am putting effort into making more effective use of time. Taking regular micro-breaks allows me to focus on a task more completely than if I tried to push through and do it all in one go. Talking through particular tasks with colleagues helps me see them from a different perspective, and find alternative solutions. Reminding myself the quicker I get my work done, the quicker I can get back to editing my book.
It can be tough to decipher whether something is distracting us from hard work, or providing us a way to refocus. Sometimes it might be a bit of both. Chances are, things we love to do will have important tasks within then that are less enjoyable. Identify where they are helping to get you, knuckle down, and you’ll be back to editing (or whatever you’re looking forward to) in no time!
Keep on keeping on being awesome. Peace.