Just Do the Work

“Don’t waste your life in doubts and fears:
spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Journal, candle and pink shawl - 2

When I started my career as a writer, I fell into the trap of getting the cart before the horse. I worried about all the things I’d have to do to get my work published. But somewhere along the way, I learned a great lesson.

Concentrate on doing the creative work first. Once you’re ready to sell your work the rest will fall into place.

When I quit my teaching job to become a writer, I was anxious to become a good writer quickly so I could sell my work. Therefore, I read lots of books, blogs and articles about writing, marketing and promotion. I had so many questions rumbling around in my head, it was difficult to concentrate on doing the work of writing.

My mind was split and, consequently, when I finished the memoir, which was my first project, and had a former instructor read it, thinking it was ready for publication, I was devastated to find I was wrong. What she said was, “I see promise, but your writing is too guarded. You need to peel back the layers so we can see who you really are.”

I’d taken some baby steps toward nurturing a new creative skill, but I wasn’t quite ready to run. I was trying to rush the process. There was something about what my former teacher said that scared me.

I needed to be vulnerable.

I wasn’t sure I could do that, so, I put the memoir aside and went back to a novel I’d started years before.

As I worked on the novel, it dawned on me that what I needed to do was focus on the work and nothing else. Someone once said that creating is an inside job. I knew they were right. It occurred to me that I had the skills. I just needed to concentrate on using them. Accessing my acting training, which taught me to trust that inner part of myself to bring out the character, I followed the paths into the parts of myself that were connected to the story of my novel and to my characters. That’s when the fire was ignited. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write. And the more I wrote, the more I allowed myself to open up and trust the process.

Some miraculous things have happened since I committed to concentrating on writing. Not too long ago I met a local publisher, who gives writing workshops and is also an editor. From him I learned some important skills, but more than that I learned to trust my inner writing guides. He emphasized the fact that the work must come first. When it’s ready, the next steps will present themselves.

Several weeks ago I finished the rough draft of my novel. It’s not finished, but I’m nearly ready to get some critiques. I’ve found seven or eight people to read and make comments on it. I’ve decided that it’s better to perfect my novel as much as I can rather than rush publishing it and making a bad first impression.

My advice to anyone who wants to be an artist of any kind is focus only on the work. If you want to be a painter, paint. If you want to be a film maker, make films. Let the work be your guide. Don’t let what you might need to do in the future clutter your creative process. I can tell you from experience that cluttering your mind with things that don’t pertain to the artwork slows down your ability to create.

I hope you follow your dreams and create wonderful artwork. In my opinion we need more creativity in this world.

4 thoughts on “Just Do the Work

  1. this is such great advice — and exactly what i need to be reminded of lately! for the past few years i’ve gotten the ‘hustle’ part of writing down… but haven’t been creating anything new. and while it’s been great to revise & send out older stories for publication, it’s definitely time to start creating some new first drafts. personally, i like to remind myself not only to be open / less guarded, as you say, but to PLAY!

    1. sarahspy, I wasn’t aware this post had been published. Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about play. To me writing is play. I’m not a very good multi-tasker, so I have to concentrate on one thing at a time and when I finally figured out that concentrating on the writing was the thing that was the best place to start, everything else seems to be falling into place. Have fun creating new stories.

  2. I’ve read a few of your posts and I’m a little creeped out because there are so many similarities between us: I have training as an actor, quit my job to become a writer six years ago, finish a nanowrimo novel, then another (a sequel to the first), am a pantser/puzzler, have a supportive husband and am currently stuck in the editing of the first novel before sending it to an editor. The more I edit the less I have to pay them. I freelance write so I do have publishing credits to my name. Am I a cliche??? But actually it’s nice to know others are walking this path too. Makes me feel less lonely! Thanks!

    1. Mavis, Oh, wow. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who jumps off the end of the world and expects to get caught by the net. I’ve considered doing the freelance thing, but I have a very hard time writing about things when I’m not interested in them, or don’t feel anything one way or the other about them. That’s why I write blogs. We should connect. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn. I’m very happy to meet someone with similar background. Thanks for your comment.

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