In the course of any given day, I have lots of conversations with lots of writers. A consistent theme in the past few months has revolved around “doing the work.” In fact, it’s become kind of a sign-off mantra with a friend of mine: “Okay, I’m off to Do The Work.” It can be hard to stay focused and motivated to do the work when there’s so little reward for it, which is why it’s such a prevalent topic of conversation these days.
I think it’s safe to say that lately a lot of writers aren’t exactly feeling the love. Freelance budgets have been cut or eliminated, book publishing is harder than it was a few years ago and other pressures, not just economic, have conspired to rob writers of what they need most (well, other than cold hard cash): recognition for their work. When that recognition is lacking — when no one is reading your stuff or commenting on it or buying it — it can be hard to continue doing the work. What’s the point? we ask.
And if you’re a writer, you have to keep doing it anyway.
A week or two ago, I had a talk with a professor at a university in Toronto. He’d just read one of my books and wanted to complement me on it, which was really very nice and can’t happen too often to suit me. The book came out seven or eight years ago, which in academia isn’t that long ago but in book publishing is about a hundred years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised and reminded that the work we do sometimes manages to have a more lasting impact than, say, the lentil soup I made over the weekend.
What I found most interesting about this conversation was how energized it made me afterwards, how much I wanted to write my next book on the subject, how suddenly my mind was fertile with ideas for blog posts and workshops I could teach. All because of some encouragement from a person who’s a perfect stranger to me.
That prompted me to email a couple of people whose work I admire just to tell them I appreciated their efforts and that someone cared that they were doing the work. I’d love it if you’d pick one or two people whose contributions, whatever they are, have been meaningful to you and do the same.