Working Hard or Hardly Working?


I had this teacher of Taoist philosophy who insisted that, if you were working with the Tao, then things would feel easy.

It’s like the joke about the Rabbi, the Priest and the Taoist approaching the raging river. The Priest kneels down and prays to God for safe passage across the river. The Rabbi divides the water and walks through. The Taoist steps into the current and gestures for it to keep going in the same direction.

Okay, it’s not a FUNNY joke.

But it does illustrate a principle that, while some religious philosophies seek to control or change the world, Taoists try to find which way things are already going and ride that wave. So, the corollary to this is, if what you’re trying to do is really difficult, you’re fighting the current. If you’ve found the current, things are easy. Just float along in your inner tube and drink your beer.

I’m not sure if I agree with this or not.

There are certainly good examples in our lives of things falling into place, not the least of which our recent serendipitous switch to moving to Santa Fe instead of Victoria. That was certainly the case of knocking on some doors and seeing which one opened. And every-damn-thing fell into place. It was truly amazing to watch.

I have long been accused of taking the easy way. Of cruising.

I was a naturally good student, so rarely studied. I read books in class because I could always answer the question the teacher’s asked, no matter how they tried to catch me out. I could get A’s without trying, so why try? In college I had to try harder, but I didn’t kill myself by any stretch, to my advisor’s dismay. My PhD advisor was even sharper in his disapproval, often castigating me for not pushing myself, for doing just enough to get by.

So, I can see it. I’m not a hard worker. I’m a grasshopper by nature and generally at peace with that.

But with this ruthless revision — the one you’re undoubtedly sick of hearing about — I’m trying really hard to take the time to do it right. I’m working HARD at it. And feeling a bit sulky about it, to tell the truth. I want to see if it’s true, that if you put in all that effort that all the theys want you to put in, will it really result in a hugely better product?

I’m at this point in the book where I got stuck when I was drafting it. It’s about 80% of the way through. I solved the problem then by jumping in the river and letting the current take me. Turns out we meandered past some neat scenery, but ended up in a stagnant pool.

So, now I’m consciously directing it. Thinking thinking thinking. With lots of second guessing. And it’s making me tired. I know that sounds silly, but I’ve been doing this writing a couple hours every day/working full-time career-type job all day deal for years now and this push is draining me. Sleeping 11 hours a night draining.

Which makes me worry that I’m fighting the current.

Maybe its my Catholic ancestors, whispering in my ear that I should confess, purge and pray. Maybe its the Pagan ones before that, telling me to sacrifice to the spirit of the river.

Maybe I should just get back to work.

3 Replies to “Working Hard or Hardly Working?”

  1. All I can tell you is yes, you're right, yes this is the exhausting part (I fly through a draft spewing a bunch of interconnected yet not entirely related scenes then spend that last %20 or so, similar to your %80 completion – and try and create the connective tissue) and yes it will be better for the work that's the hardest part of the work. The 'stuck' part. Gets me every time. I cannot say I've figured out a solution, let me know if you do. If one of us figures that out let's bottle and sell it.

    All I know is that this is the part where I realize I 'hate my baby and no one will ever love it' and then I wonder about abandoning it and then that's just not an option. It's rattling, because as writers we're supposed to love all this, right? Every part of it, right? (I too was the A student that got away with stuff that I can no longer get away with). Well, this may not be the part I love but it does lend me a sense of ferocity, fight and pluck to my work – that I feel I've earned it in the end and that's actually nice.

    Glad I saw you twitter this post because it reminds me I'm not alone in this, and it's well said. 🙂 Blessings and keep us posted!

  2. I'm glad you saw it, too, Leanna. For some reason, seeing Percy released and do so well really lit a fire under me to get this revision finished and back to the agent who might maybe care still. It's heartening to know that maybe this hard work thing WILL pay off for me, too!

    Either that or we'll figure out that solution, bottle it and get rich…

    Thanks for the blessings – I need them!

  3. Hey darlin', if getting Percy out there can be some sort of torch for talents like yourself then that's a true honour and gift to me. I know you've got what it takes, so do keep me posted and I'll keep those blessings coming. We all need them at every stage in the game. Keep those fires burning and burning strong.

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