Have faith, then shut the f$#k up and work

By May 1, 2012Comms

Here’s the thing with weight-training, with all exercise, actually:

You start out on an exercise program. You have an image in your mind of what you want to look like, the reward you want to reap. You step into the gym or onto the track encouraged, hopeful, ready to work. You know it’ll be hard, but so what? You’re committed, you’re locked on, let’s do this.

And you start. And it’s hard, just like you expected.

But here’s what you didn’t expect: You don’t improve. Your muscles don’t grow, the fat doesn’t come off, your blood pressure and resting heart rate don’t change.

How long was this supposed to take, anyway? The latest issue of Muscle & Fitness clearly says that if I follow this workout, I should start seeing results in two weeks! Three weeks roll by, then four. Why am I bothering? Where’s the return on my investment? I am spending time I could be using on writing, or cooking, or cleaning my apartment. I’m too busy to be doing all this work for no results.

And there’s the temptation, the resistance: Quit. Because the Return-on-Investment isn’t worth it. Sure, you were willing to work hard, but you’d be a fool to work hard for NOTHING.

Writing is *exactly* the same way. You pour hours, days, years of your life into project after project. Short stories, novels, networking, keeping up on the news. And what for? All you ever get are rejections. You can’t even swear that the manuscript you just finished is any better than the ones you were turning out three years ago. Yeah, maybe you get a personal rejection or a heartfelt, complimentary email from an agent, but it still equals ZERO, right?

Wrong.

You live in your body every day, you see it in the mirror all the time. It’s hard to see the minute changes that happening at a glacial, but steady pace.

But the people around you are noticing. They’re not going to come running up to you shouting, “Wow!  Are you losing weight!?” Because talking about another person’s body is a social faux pas. And your body may be different. Maybe the magazine workout article said it would take two weeks to see results, but for you it takes six months. You STILL see the results, eventually.

But only if you keep going.

The same is true of your writing. I pushed and sweat for nearly fifteen years without a book deal, then, suddenly, I got one. If you’d asked me a week before it happened, I would have told you that I had no confidence in it ever happening, that I wasn’t sure that my current work was all that much better than my old stuff. I couldn’t see myself getting better.

But as with exercise, I *was* getting better. Those years laid the baseline that took me over the top. The difference between success or failure at your goals is usually the final quarter-second. You are building a fifty mile high mountain under the sea. You won’t see a shred of it until the summit breaks the surface.

But you have to believe it’s there. You have to believe it’s working.

Otherwise you quit, and then you lose.

Nobody stands still if they’re truly trying. Your pace maybe slower than you’d like, but you’re improving.

So shut up and keep going.

Author Myke Cole

Myke Cole is an American writer of history and fantasy who leverages a lifetime in military, law enforcement and intelligence service to take you to battlefields, real and imagined.

More posts by Myke Cole

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Justin says:

    Good advice. I always tell people to never judge a diet or workout program for six weeks. The first month your body is just trying to figure out what the fuck you’re doing to it.

  • I needed this encouragement today, Myke. Thanks. Just had one of those days yesterday where I felt like I was standing still.

  • Great advice, and much needed right about now. Thanks! 

  • Dan Adler says:

    This, I totally needed. Thank you.

  • Just read the latest rejection, and about to head to the gym after overindulging with visiting family over the past few days. I started feeling sorry for myself. Thanks for the ass kicking I needed. 

  • Just read the latest rejection, and about to head to the gym after overindulging with visiting family over the past few days. I started feeling sorry for myself. Thanks for the ass kicking I needed. 

  • Mike Douton says:

    I feel I should be writing at the gym…  I wonder how possible that is?

  • Philip Goetz says:

    I respectfully disagree.  Some people write and write and never get better.  You only improve if you can measure how good what you did was.  This can mean getting critiques at writers’ groups, or it can mean posting on fan-fiction sites and checking the ratings.

  • Kristene Perron says:

    Wow. I’m in limbo right now, waiting for word on a manuscript, and sliding into that zone where you question your skill (and your sanity).  There’s all kinds of chipper writing advice out there but your gym metaphor struck just the right nerve.

    As a former stunt person, the gym used to be my second home. I understand how slowly and inconspicuously the body changes, and how much damn work it takes to reach your goals.  Strange that I’ve never thought of my  writing the same way.

    Duh.

    Thanks Myke!

  • Kristene Perron says:

    Wow. I’m in limbo right now, waiting for word on a manuscript, and sliding into that zone where you question your skill (and your sanity).  There’s all kinds of chipper writing advice out there but your gym metaphor struck just the right nerve.

    As a former stunt person, the gym used to be my second home. I understand how slowly and inconspicuously the body changes, and how much damn work it takes to reach your goals.  Strange that I’ve never thought of my  writing the same way.

    Duh.

    Thanks Myke!

  • Kristene Perron says:

    Wow. I’m in limbo right now, waiting for word on a manuscript, and sliding into that zone where you question your skill (and your sanity).  There’s all kinds of chipper writing advice out there but your gym metaphor struck just the right nerve.

    As a former stunt person, the gym used to be my second home. I understand how slowly and inconspicuously the body changes, and how much damn work it takes to reach your goals.  Strange that I’ve never thought of my  writing the same way.

    Duh.

    Thanks Myke!

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