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Chop Wood, Carry Water

I read Dorian Karchmar’s advice and then Joni’s and Colleen’s year-in-review entries and it struck me how their experiences so clearly embody that advice. So much of what is worthwhile in any undertaking, whether it is writing or cooking, gardening, whatever, is how willing we are to do the grunt work, put in the sweat equity. That Zen saying comes to mind, the one that goes something like: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. Substitute finding representation and/or publication for enlightenment and, to me, it's the same. Like the moments of epiphany, the moments of stellar success are cast across a broad and hopefully serviceable and sturdy fabric woven from hours of labor some of which may never bear obvious fruit as both Colleen's and Joni's year-end reviews reveal. Admiration, respect and esteem is due to them both and to my other critique partners, Wanda and TJ, and to any one of us and all of us who have put in this time out of love and the determination to climb the mountain that we might better shine and share our creative light. Combined it becomes a force of joy and encouragement that energizes and nourishes each of us. That’s why it’s important that we do it.

The gifts received from the work, from the support of each other through the process may not be as showy, as celebrated as landing that agent or that book contract, but they are as valuable and perhaps even more enduring. The found treasure, or pay-off, if you will, is in the work, in the quieter turning over of the days, in the building of the words, sentences and paragraphs into something that resembles the heart’s vision and this in spite of, or maybe because of the naysaying “New York gatekeepers” and the rest who lack faith, who discount the value of individual expression. So hats off to all of us and here’s to all of us that in 2011 we may find the success we desire and also the reward that is folded into the simple act of showing up and inviting our muse. Here’s to keeping the lamps lit and the fires burning!


Great post, Bobbi, and I love the wisdom of it. You're absolutely right: it's all about finding joy in the work itself, because publishing can and will disappoint you. The writing never will.

I plan to remember that as I get back to work tomorrow on revisions. My vision for the story, ultimately, is what it's all about.
YES! What a great post! Although I do believe the writing does disappoint--at least the early drafts of something often do. I'm often dissatisfied even when sending out the "final final" draft, because I know there's always something more I could do, some other change or other choice or other emphasis I could make.

But the bottom line is, can you bear to do something else? I think that's what I'm realizing, that while I might not exactly be happy writing, I'm certainly more peaceful. It's like an exquisite sort of hurt that's necessary.

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