As I scanned a blurb about an author’s book on writing, it mentioned the author’s “tireless work ethic.” The phrase grabbed me by the throat, causing quite a bit of pain. If I ever did have a tireless work ethic, a questionable premise to begin with, I have given it up. Let’s just say it became a conscious decision that limped along in the wake of a natural bent.
On the wall of my office is a small picture of a cat curled up on a wing chair. Underneath, it says, “Start slow, and taper off.” When I first spotted this picture and its caption, I came close to giving a “whoop!” of relief. Someone had expressed my tireless work ethic. It was like the day I discovered that the true meaning of manana wasn’t “tomorrow,” but “not today.” Someone, somewhere understood my secret inner truths.
At one time, I suffered guilt about my deficiencies, when youthful ambition still held me in its sway. I should do something to set the world on fire, I thought, and I thought that something would be as a Writer.
Yes, with a capital W, though I’ll spare you the italics.
For five years, I was the veritable priestess of writing discipline. The chair I set my dedicated rear on bore the impression of a hard worker. I sat down to my writing hours every day with religious devotion, and, no, I don’t mean only at Christmas and Easter.
Then, two things happened: I got discouraged by the countless rave rejections, with rare acceptances serving only to taunt me, and my husband and I built a house and had children. Bam! There went my writing piety.
I backslid into twelve years of pecking at two or three long stories. I wavered between guilt at not writing and thumbing my nose at the whole process.
Then, during a weepy mid-life moment, I began to write again. And, oddly enough, I found I didn’t care about ambition. I didn’t care about discipline. It startled me to learn I only cared about using words and telling stories.
Now, I watch these many stories unroll in front of me, one after another, to become happy gifts for myself and those who read them. I find fun and joy are the only disciplines I need.
If that’s my tireless work ethic, then I say, by golly, bring it on.