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Hard Work Is Not Special

Musings on writing, achievement, and effort

Everyone on the path is working hard. Hard work is not special. Stop tweeting about how hard you work. Stop taking selfies at your desk for Instagram. You’re showing your hand and inviting others to comment on or influence your process.

Worst of all, you’re making the work about something other than developing your craft.


Resist the urge to document or broadcast all your progress. Remind yourself there are people in Silicon Valley getting paid six-figures to make you feel like you’re missing out.


Go to sleep tonight—just tonight—with the validation that you did what you set out to do today. Don’t seek validation from others.


Chasing success doesn’t give you an excuse to be an asshole.

Yes, Steve Jobs and other famous writers you’ve read about were assholes. That doesn’t give you the right.

Maybe you’re not where you want to be because of your tendency to change things you read online into beliefs that fit your narrative.


Winning is a bias we all need to overcome—especially in America. Indoctrination starts young here. We don’t make movies where the hero finishes second. That bleeds over. It makes people think they’ve won without putting in the work.

Have you ever actually asked yourself, “What makes me a winner?”

Better yet, “What have I done lately that makes me a winner?”

Making the varsity team in high school doesn’t count.


Posting about how hard you work is going to be your downfall. You’re seeing ghosts. You care too much what other people think.


On a long pursuit, you will question what you’re doing. It will hurt. You will feel like you’ve sold out or given up on your dream.

Questioning yourself is actually a milestone. It’s a good sign. It shows you’re engaged in the process.

You’re in a long-term relationship with your goals. Like any relationship, you must continue to choose it.


If you can’t question part of your routine, if your impulse is to put your head down, pour more coffee, throw yourself into more work, ignore responsibilities, or block out the noise, that’s a bad sign. Your ego is in control.


At the beginning of a journey, some believe they must become someone (or something) different to achieve their goals. This seems to be a common strategy humans apply everywhere, not just in writing.

What usually winds up happening, though, is we create a character of ourselves. We lean into 30 percent of ourselves and sacrifice our dignity in the process. We sell out.

If we succeed, we stand on the mountain empty and confused.


Staying busy helps drown out the noise. It also helps you fall out of touch and lose sight of the bigger picture.


It doesn’t hurt to (quietly) gamify your journey. Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit inspired me to do this.

I write on legal pads and collect the stiff-backs when they’re empty. I have a shelf in my office reserved only for full Moleskines. I devote a Banker’s Box to collect artifacts for each book I write.

What could you do for your process?

I’d suggest not posting your creative “stats” on social media. Let this be your thing.


People on the path are always looking for the thing—or series of things—to govern their life. This is probably why stoicism exploded in recent years. We crave a framework to help us answer yes or no. We yearn to be grounded in something outside ourselves.

That desire won’t go away until you either a) indoctrinate yourself in one discipline or b) create your own framework.


Your lack of character and insecurities will come with you when you move to get the job, sign the papers, or move to the big city. In fact, they’ll shine brighter.


Writers talk about discovering their voice. We’re fortunate that we create a backlog every day of our own development and self-exploration. But ‘voice’ transcends pen and paper.

Voice is your character and spirit unfolding in real-time. It’s more of a gas than a liquid or solid. Scouring the internet for advice or paying other writers to tell you what your voice is—that’s a fool’s errand.


Fear is duality. You are fearful because it could go two ways. It really could, so you are wise to be fearful. You are not wise to let it paralyze you.

Mostly humor essays.

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