The Real Work: Friday, June 5th

This wasn’t my best week of writing, so I’m gonna have to make it up over the weekend. 700 words a day is the goal I’ve been working with for the last two months. I’ve experimented in the past with 500 a day (little too easy) and 1,000 and even 2,000 (little too discouraging for me right now). Of all the writer’s advice I’ve ever heard, most pros shoot for 500 – 2,000 words a day, minimum. This week I only successfully wrote my 700 words on 3 out of 5 days. A 60% grade is passing, I guess, but it’s nothing to be brag about.

Weekdays are for work. Weekends are for the real work.

So now it’s time to fire up the coffee pot, unplug the internet router, and crank up the electronic music. First I start writing about my day. But that doesn’t last long, because my day was boring and I’ve already lived it once, so pretty quickly I start I peeling the onion and getting to the center of things.When I narrow my world down to a quiet corner, and give myself permission to stare at a blank wall for an hour, then slowly the world begins to open up.

There’s a red brick wall that seperates reality from dreams. When I sit down to write, I’m chipping away at chinks in that wall, trying to wear it down until I can see clearly to the other side. Writing everyday enables me to keep building off of yesterday’s momentum. The bad news is that the enemy is never idle either. If I take a few days off from visiting the wall, I find that it’s been replastered and repaired while I was away. And now I have to repeat the work of finding those vulnerable spots.

So far I’m learning that the easiest way to find stories is to just start writing. The way to ensure that I’ll never find a story is to rack my brains all week about what the best possible story could be.

So here’s to a weekend of “just doing.”

Write the words. Run the miles. Walk the dog. Slam the door. Turn the corner. Jump the moon. Swing the stick. Flavor the canvas. Film the action. Capture the picture. Move to the next thing. As soon as what you’re boiling starts to bubble, hop to the next pot.




2 thoughts on “The Real Work: Friday, June 5th

  1. Don’t know if you were referring to this short poem by WB but its one of my favorites. Thought id’ share. -DM
    The Real Work by Wendell berry
    It may be that when we no longer know what to do
    we have come to our real work,

    and that when we no longer know which way to go
    we have come to our real journey.

    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

    The impeded stream is the one that sings


    • Derek, thanks a lot for sharing. I’m so glad you did. I have read this poem by Wendell Berry, although I wasn’t thinking of it at the time.

      I’m a big fan of the poet Gary Snyder. He has a poem called “The Real Work” and I think I got the concept from him. Snyder and Wendell Berry crossed paths a lot, and they write about a lot of the same themes, so… It’s an interesting question, who coined the phrase?


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