Wednesday, 14 March 2012

There is No Straight Line to Success.

I used to co own a tree service. It was called Trees Company. Clever I know. My partner in the business was (and is now) one of my best friends whom I've known since I was 2 years old. He is an arborist and a damn good one. (See pic to the right.) He is also one of the hardest working people I have ever met. We were a great combo. I'm 6'3 and he is somewhere around 5 feet tall. (I can hear him yelling I'm 5'2!!!! in my head)
The classic big man, little man combo. We started the business with a pickup truck, a 6 inch chipper, and some gear. We did everything in the beginning. Landscaping, stone work, snow removal. We didn't turn down work and we worked hard.Very hard.

The thing is, even when you are pulling down brutal, 16 hour days of back breaking labour, it can be fun. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you have a common goal, loads of coffee and great people around you to do it. I think that is why this writing thing is tough to do sometimes. It is just you and the computer and maybe the cat. There is no camaraderie, no bullshitting with friends and co workers and certainly no reward in terms of feeling like you did a good days work. Don't get me wrong, finishing anything when it comes to writing is a victory in my experience, but it doesn't feel the same as finishing a tree job. They are two different worlds and I don't miss the pain, lack of sleep and the stress of watching your closest friend 60 feet in the air (or more) taking down an old dead tree. Its just that when you finish a tree job, clean up, load the trucks and leave a happy customer behind as you drive away with a cheque there is a very distinct feeling of accomplishment. For one, the body loves to work. It doesn't like to work beat up and hurt, but it does like to work. Its nice to feel that buzz in your bones after a hard days work. It feels good to do dangerous work and pull off the job and go home safe. Writing is more long term when it comes to the reward factor. Personally, if I finish or get through something when I am writing, I consider it a victory.

With writing there is no straight line to success. Thats the frustrating part. You can put your head down and work at writing, but you can't approach it like you can a physical job. In the hardhat work boot world you can put your head down and work hard. You can push through fatigue and pain and all that physical stuff. You train your mind and body to deal with it. With writing its ALL in your head and your body just sits there. I found that really challenging. The mind suddenly becomes harder to deal with. You can try to push through but it just isn't the same.

  When we started the business I knew it would succeed. I knew we had the basic components for success. We had the knowledge and skills we needed to do the work. We had a work ethic and a will to push hard. Ernie had a reputation of being a skilled arborist. I knew how to talk to people and didn't mind handling the phone calls and I knew how to work hard. I knew that once we put ourselves out there we would do well based on all these components. With writing it is so much more daunting. It is a solo activity and whats worse you are up in your head all the time. You are constantly thinking about so many things and I found it really hard to just bull my way through my writing sessions. The best advice I ever got was just write, just keep going, don't even correct spelling mistakes. Just let it go. When I was writing the BTB I found that I had to set the alarm for 5am, get up, turn on the computer boil water make tea and just go for it. I would read what I wrote last time while the water was boiling and then write until 7 or 8am. Then it was off to work where I would think about what I had written and where I wanted to go with the writing the next morning. Sometimes I would write at night too, but mostly I was too burnt out.

Writing develops a different kind of mental strength. It shows you who you are in a different way. Writing is just one part of the equation too. You need to learn the business side of writing and the marketing side of things. You need to think about branding and how you want to present yourself to the world. It is a lot of work and not the kind you can just physically grind through. I find it to be a lot harder. When you are finished the first draft you have to start going through it all over again. Over and over until it feels tight and right. Like preparing a fighter for his fight, you keep working at it, sculpting it and breaking it down. I love it and I hate it.

There is no straight line in writing but there is a path. I keep setting goals that I can reach and I keep building on those small victories. My first goal was to get up at 5am and write. I found it hard to write for 30 minutes when I started but in the end I was blowing through the writing sessions and regretting I had to stop to go to work. Its like Jiu jitsu. Randori was tough as hell at first, I would need a break between rounds for the first while. Then you get a bit better and you learn efficiency of movement and how to breathe and stay calm and you begin to get tougher and smarter. You begin to last longer and it starts to be fun. Writing is the same.

Time is the best teacher if you are committed to learning anything. You just have to keep at it, be humble but hungry and keep pushing. Small victories baby. Small victories!    


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