The tools get better, but you still have to chop the wood
Every week at around 8pm on Wednesday, I absolutely hate what I’ve written here. It stinks. There’s no chance it’s going to turn into a readable piece by the next day. It’s going to be the week that I finally call in sick with you guys.
The silver lining of this recurring freakout is that it’s the stage of writing-related grief just before acceptance. Hating what you’ve written is a step ahead of hating the blank page and a step or two before the satisfying thrill of putting an endnote on a piece you’re ready to share.
It doesn’t mean you’re close, it just means you’re not as far away as you think you are.
It doesn’t get easier, staring at that blank page. The tools get better, the axe gets sharper, but you still have to lace up your boots and chop the wood. It helps to keep routines that might not bear fruit. Little things like scribbling notes keep the wheels turning in the background even if you’re not actively working, and it’s much easier to crank up a spinning wheel than an idle one.
I try to write down thoughts throughout the week as they come to me, kernels I’d like to explore. I don’t start all of these prompts, and most of the ones I do start don’t get finished, but having a record of the ideas that I felt the need to pull out of the flood of information on any given day gives me a place to come back to, a place I’ve been to before, a place that led to a satisfying end. And that’s the difference between going on and giving up.
Though most ventures are results-oriented for good reason, more and more I’ve come to accept that showing up is more important, and often harder than the actual work. No one can put out their best every week, but the ugly work has to come out before the good stuff.
Some people are lucky to find work they love. For some it’s art or sport. There’s no such thing as not working a day when you find it, but if you keep at it, there will probably be brighter nights.