Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Overalls Are Optional, The Work is Not

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas A. Edison   

For the last few weeks I’ve been head down, reviewing, editing, and attempting to finalize the work that seems to have no end. Don’t get excited. I haven’t been working on my novel. All my focus has been on the festival I organize. The program and tickets go on sale August 14th. Yikes!

I will give you a sneak preview next weekend. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, while I haven’t done what I call real writing, there isn’t a moment I don’t think about it. These thoughts take a typical form. First I beat up on myself: why am I not writing, if I were a real writer, I’d be writing, I have no talent, that’s my problem. When I’ve exhausted that focus, I go into planning mode: how do I build in some writing time, when can I write, I don’t have enough time now, maybe tomorrow. If I can’t find the time or more to the point, if I won’t make the time, I spin back to thrashing myself. And the cycle continues. No writing takes place.

In all this self-generated torment, I received a breath of good advice from one of my SFU students. In her update, she noted that she has often wondered about her talent and ability to write. She had recently watched a Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth who found that the trait most prevalent in successful people was grit. And what is grit? Passion and perseverance, not talent or smarts or money or any of those other things we typically associate with successful folks.

And just for the record, my student has plenty: talent, smarts and lots of grit.

In her email to me, she also mentioned that she was tracking how much she wrote. My student built a spreadsheet to track when she sits down to write, how much she writes and calculates how many words she writes per hour. As a result she can see her progress in a very practical way, which motivates and drives her forward. Her spreadsheet is not unlike my Fit Bit. When I see the progress I’ve made in workouts, it pushes me to keep at it, do more.

And finally in the same email (just the kind of reminders we all need from time to time) my student outlined two other gems that I will share with you here. Check out Lauren Graham's Kitchen Timer method packed with suggestions to stop procrastinating about writing and take a look at this on-line power thesaurus the next time you’re stuck for words.

I wrote to my student this week to see how she was doing. I wanted to touch base with the other writers in my life. In doing so, I was again reminded of how, even in this solitary pursuit, it takes a community and tons of work to keep you at the page. Overalls are optional.

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