[This is Part 3 of a series of posts inspired by Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 23rd at 11:59PM, the book can be pre-ordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping, and it comes with a ton of online bonuses. That’s only 3 days away, people–get on it!!! Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com.]
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
–Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League of Their Own
Chapter 3 of The Art of Work is probably one of my favorites. In it, Jeff talks about the “myth of talent” and the importance of painful practice. He suggests that it’s practice, not talent, that makes the difference in an endeavor, and that even those who have natural ability owe it to themselves to push themselves past the point of what comes easy in order to discover what they’re really capable of achieving.
In an era of human history in which we prize comfort above nearly every other virtue, we have overlooked an important truth: comfort never leads to excellence. What it takes to become great at your craft is practice, but not just any kind of practice—the kind that hurts, that stretches and grows you.
A question I wrestle with from time to time is, Am I really a writer? Don’t writers…write? There are different views on this question of legitimacy. Some would argue (pretty convincingly) that if you’re not driven, if you don’t have a compelling need to write, then you need to quit kidding yourself and move on to something else. I see the logic here—writing is challenging and lonely work. There’s no instant feedback and recognition. It’s an act of faith that what you’re doing means something, is worth something. If you’re not willing to sacrifice the time and sleep and energy to create, you may be more enamored by the thought of being a writer than the actual writing.
The counter proposal is that sometimes writers need time away from writing in order to figure out what is worth saying at all. The longer this season lasts, however, the more important it is to take a hard look at what you love and what you don’t. Your passions are often revealed in how you spend your time, money, and energy (unless these resources are tied up in other necessary things, and you’re living under constant frustration—that’s a different conversation).
More from Jeff Goins:
I don’t know where this idea that your calling is supposed to be easy comes from. Rarely do easy and greatness go together. The art of doing hard things requires an uncommon level of dedication. You have to love the work to be able to persevere through those difficult times, those painful moments when you would probably rather quit. How do you do that without an uncanny amount of passion? It’s not possible. You must love the work. Not until you find something you can do to the point of exhaustion, to the extent that you almost hate it but can return to it tomorrow, have you found something worth pursuing.
I can admit: this is how I’ve felt about church ministry from time to time. As I’ve expressed recently, there have been moments in the last year when I was ready to throw up my hands and say, “This clearly isn’t my calling.” But the love and the Lord have kept me going.
And I think I can say the same for writing, to some extent. I’m not as prolific as some of you, dear readers, but I’m working on it. I keep blogging. I keep writing poetry. I can’t seem to quit this, because it won’t let go of me. I’m still getting bursts of inspiration for stories to tell, and I’m scribbling down all those notes until I can start fleshing them out.
So I’m just going to keep moving my fingers and making the clickety-clack sound, and hopefully you’ll keep reading what I share, and one day, I’ll hold up something made of physical paper and ink and say, “Mine.”
Until then, I need to keep practicing and keep posting. Thanks for taking the ride with me.
Your Turn: Have you ever reached the point of painful practice, when you both hate and love the thing you’re passionate about doing? How did you break through that temptation to pull back and stop?