Okay, so I was scything a chunk of meadow this afternoon at my Christmas tree farm, it's a quarter acre I keep mowed to allow my truck access to a couple acres of trees. And the grass is tall and rank and lodged over and although there is enough wind that the sweat dries right away, it is tough going. I'm listening to Spotify to keep my energy up, but there comes a point where I just hit a wall. I've been mowing for maybe forty-five minutes, but the work is exhausting, and I'm already tired from a full day of work. Now, before I could quit, call it a day, rationalize that I'd done enough, here's the interesting part: the song "You Can't Hurry Love" by the Supremes comes on, and I find myself almost going into a trance, my eyes slitted down, just doing the motion, again, again, swinging the scythe, and SINGING at the top of my lungs! And it's not that it got easier, nope, it's just that I got past caring about that. The song pulled me through to a different place, a place where I was doing the hard thing BECAUSE IT WAS HARD. As my mom always told me, "if you can't get out of it, get into it".
I found out that a number of songs kept me in that place over the next hour and a half: "September", but not the Earth, Wind and Fire version, oh no, the Trolls version with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick; "Downtown" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis; "Beautiful" by Carly Rae Jepsen; "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus. There was plenty of fiddle music mixed in too, of course, but the fiddle music didn't do the trance thing. Fast, driving fiddle music only worked for so long and then I needed a song to belt it out. Oh yeah, "Take on Me" by A-ha. Go figure.
I have found time and again that when you are faced with something truly difficult and you can't get out of it, you get into it. I was once told to wriggle my way down into the belly of a schooner I was working on to scrub down the boards that had become covered with sewage when the blackwater tank leaked. The space was so tight I had to be pulled out by my ankles, but I was cracking jokes and laughing the whole time.
Lately, a lot of manuscripts have come in for my editing business. I don't control when they arrive and I guarantee a two week turnaround on them, so when a surge of them comes in like this I just tack the work on top of whatever else is going on, since I have also made time commitments (although looser) for my spooncarving. So that means waking up at 5 every morning and putting in a couple hours of editing before the kids wake up, carving all day and editing in the evening until bed. If you can't get out of it get into it.
I could push off the carving, and when there is less to do I sometimes do. But I want to be disciplined about the carving, because it is the part of the income I control. I may not be able to predict when editing work comes in, but I can sure put in the hours with the knife to ensure a baseline income. Putting this first reinforces that it is my business, that it is the priority in the long term and that more opportunities flow from being consistent with my carving than just the spoons and the income they provide.
But 5 am is awfully early. So tomorrow, when I'm blearily switching on the lights in the kitchen and settling into my armchair to edit manuscript number six of the nine that have come in this month, I will put in the earbuds, and turn up the Supremes.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card