There’s something refreshing about good old-fashioned physical labor. About knowing I can drive my body and it won’t fail me the way my creativity so often does. After a long winter of writing and submitting, my brain is tired and my will is beaten down. All I want is to work long, hard hours in someone’s yard then go home feeling worn out but successful. My customers, the neighbors and I can see the immediate results of my labor, something that doesn’t necessarily happen when you write.
The submission process is a little like standing beside the road with your thumb out, holding a sign that says “please throw rocks at me”. You’re asking to be rejected, denied, in some cases even ridiculed. You’re required to get back up on your horse not just once or twice, but time after time. You’re expected to keep your disappointments to yourself, because being professional is of utmost importance, and everything you say can affect your platform.
When I look at the contrast between landscaping and writing , particularly at this time of year, it’s tempting to throw myself into that easy escape. It’s such a simple equation. Work hard, get rewards. Not just money, but the satisfaction of knowing you did a job well, that people are pleased with you—even delighted. The ratio works out perfectly: the more effort you put in, the bigger reward you receive. Sometimes the desire to have life be that simple is so intense that I’m tempted to sacrifice everything for it. But there’s some small, stubborn part of me that can’t give in, that has to keep trying. It’s almost as if it isn’t up to me at all.
I once read an article that described this force that won’t let you quit. It’s a quality known as self-efficacy. It’s what kept Julie Andrews going when MGM told her she wasn’t photogenic enough for film, what encouraged the Beatles to keep at it when Decca records said they “didn’t like their sound”, what inspired Michael Jordan not to quit when he was cut from his varsity team as a high school sophomore. Self-efficacy isn’t the same as self-confidence. It’s the conviction that you have what it takes to succeed in a particular activity, rather than an overall belief in yourself. This doesn’t mean you think the world will recognize your ability right off the bat, instead it means you believe that your idea, skill, or invention has merit and that somebody will eventually recognize that.
I try to remind myself that life is like a game. I can choose to have fun playing, or to be a poor sport. If, like those other long shots, I one day achieve my dreams, I don’t want to look back and see my pathway littered with self-disgust, whining, and nay-saying. I’d rather see strength, stoicism, and setting a good example for others.