Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Do the work and dress appropriately

A week ago today, EVIDENCE OF LIFE made it’s debut. It was a landmark day, a milestone, one I had imagined in dreams for years but was often not quite sure I’d reach. Before it happened, there was a lot of hard work. I wrote pages and pages only to toss them all out and write them again. I read hundreds of novels and loved and learned and was inspired by many of them. I was the artist learning from the masters. My mentor and dear friend Guida has always said the only way to learn to write is to write. Someone else, I don’t remember who, said you have to write a million words. I’m pretty sure I’ve crossed that threshold. The work at least for me isn’t much different than digging a new garden bed. You turn the soil, and turn it some more. You have a quasi plan—all right, some gardeners hire a landscaper and get a real plan. That’s not me, writer or gardener. Because I like flying by the seat of my pants—anyway, the quasi plan most likely doesn’t flow the way you thought it would so you dig up everything and move it around. Believe it or not I love all of this, whether gardening or writing. You rearrange everything. Some stuff gets tossed on the compost pile. You walk around studying the new design. Maybe it works for a while, but then, one day, looking at it, you get another brilliant idea. You have to see if it’ll work, so, yep, you dig up everything again. I always feel sorry for the earthworms, but that’s another story.

Here’s the thing, all this time, writing or gardening, I wear the same clothes. Old jeans, kid jeans from the boy’s department at Macy’s, or wherever, and t-shirts, mostly white with some kind of nature thingy on them. I write mornings, and I’ve learned not to wear anything good, because I might find I’ve wandered off at some point to think through something about the plot or a character, and I’ll find myself in the garden, scrubbing the dirt off my hands down the leg of my jeans. Or I’ll decide the hydrangeas need a shot of iron and stain my shirt mixing the solution. I ruined a lot of decent clothing that way. But last week, when I was well and truly published, you know, in paper and everything, I decided maybe I should dress better. I made a vow even, I would dress better for my work, like a real professional author. I would wear my nice jeans, the ones with no holes in the seat and knees and a shirt without stains. The trend lasted for several days. I wasn’t immersed in a project, really. I was in a holding pattern, waiting to hear from my editor about Book #2. Word came down from her just the other day. Hard copy edits followed yesterday. There’s a lot of work to do. A LOT. So, today I got up and put on my work clothes, the jeans with the holes in the knees, the t-shirt that’s stained. No make up. No nothing. Just me and the computer, my editor’s notes, and a burning desire to make Book #2 the best book I’ve ever written.

I’m back in the trenches. Nothing’s changed. It’s like Steven Pressfield said, best and briefest: Do the work. If you want to be a writer, if you want to achieve anything in life, Do the Work. Every day. Even if you’re as famous as Stephen King or any one of my idols, Anita Shreve, Caroline Leavitt, A. Manette Ansay, Anna Quindlan, Pat Conroy, you still have to do the work. I’ve had people ask me how I got here. How did I land this plum job. I even ask myself, but I know the answer … I did the work. I still do. Even if I hit every bestseller list in the world, in the universe, it wouldn’t change. Even if I changed careers, dreams, goals, if I want the joy of life, the satisfaction and contentment of a job well done, I’d still have to do the work. So that’s my best advice, do the work, and dress appropriately!


  1. "Do the work." Nothing else suffices. Great post.

  2. Carol, thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting. Doing the work has kept me so busy, I haven't kept up with my WLC mates as much as I'd like! So glad to "see" you here....

  3. What a good post. And how many times do we find ourselves in the garden,unexpectedly, having left the laptop to ruminate.

  4. Mary Margaret!! Thank you for stopping by. Yes, and while there, settling our knees in the dirt to do a few things. Once I was halfway to one of my kid's away ball games when I looked down and realized I hadn't changed, that I was still wearing the blue jeans with the brown, mud=stained knees. I didn't bother trying to explain. The kids just shook their heads. They're used to it!