Hard Work and Self-efficacy

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.

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10 Responses to Hard Work and Self-efficacy

  1. Katy Skinner says:

    What a great blog entry.

    “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”. ”

    LOL!! That’s hilarious.

    Tisha and I were thinking what we could do in two years from now, when all of our kids are in school full time. We thought about landscaping and/or yard maintenance in this area. We got kinda hot on the idea! And of course we were thinking of all kinds of questions to ask you. 🙂

    I’m gonna send you an private email that sort of has to do with the physical fun of yard work . .



  2. I am glad to see another entry into your blog. Great job on the yard work!! You have so many talents.


  3. Alice Lynn says:

    The submission process; i.e. submitting yourself (your work) to the will of another. There’s something frightening in those words. Yet, we must submit if we wish our creations acknowledged and made available to an audience larger than family and close friends. The process humbles us. It tests our souls. It shakes our foundations. But Hope is the horse we get back on and Hope gives us the strength to persevere. Thanks for the reminder that this labor is not for the faint of heart.


  4. Casey says:

    Trying to comment again. It wouldn’t go through for me yesterday. I wanted to say that you’re landscaping looks awesome! And this is a great post. You have to really persevere in this business. The writers that don’t give up, that keep honing their craft and learning whatever they have to to get there, are the ones who set themselves apart and will eventually succeed.

    Keep at it, Lisa. I believe in you.


  5. shelli wells says:

    yay you’re back – we missed you.


  6. Roxie says:

    You are the hardest-working person I know! And I love your sense of humor. Look, if anyone can make it in publishing, you, with your innate storytelling skill, your polished style, and your indomitable persistance, will be the one. Then I can say, “I knew her when.”


  7. Barb says:

    Yay. We’ve been waiting for you. Well, we can see why you haven’t had time to post. The difference in the yard is astounding. What a lot of back-breaking labor.

    I think you’re absolutely right. Pouring yourself into physical activities helps you ponder the writing life.

    You are a great storyteller. And whether 20 or 20,000 read your words, the story is still poignant and worth being told. I’m proud to know you now and hope I still “know you when.”


  8. Visit my blog sometime! Maybe add it to your list!


  9. I learn the coolest things from your posts! Self-efficacy–I had no idea there was a word for it. I’ve tried to articulate the concept before and didn’t do very well. You nailed it perfectly.

    I love what you said about yearning for the simplicity of hard work = reward. If only publishing worked this way!


  10. Les Riles says:

    Hi Kim ~ You don’t know me, (yet) but you and I share the honor of being on Barb’s “Before Morning Breaks” blogroll, so I thought I’d drop by. Wow, your landscaping looks great, and I can’t even figure out what you did! Is that fine mulch? Do tell! Okay, gotta run, but I’ll be back. ~ Les


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