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“All the ancient wisdom tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis – only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy” ~Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America.

This weekend, I revisited the first draft of a writing project I started last year.   I hadn’t taken it out  in months, so I was exited to work on it again.  I was SO disappointed in what I read.  It was bad. Really bad.  After reading a dozen books in the past year on writing, reading countless blogs on becoming a better writer,  and working hard to improve my craft, I was surprised that what I would have considered to be some of my best writing a year ago doesn’t pass my test.  I was so disheartened that my first thought was to chuck the idea all together.  Maybe the concept was ill conceived.  Maybe I’m not smart enough.  Maybe I should stick to writing blog posts and making soup.   But then I remembered the 10,000 rule from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success.  You have to do something for 10,000 hours before you achieve any level of mastery.

10,000 hours.

That’s 20 hours a week for ten years.  That’s a long time and if I’m counting in hours, I’m probably only 60% there.

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So.  I have a choice.  I can throw in the towel and say maybe I’m not cut for this.  Or I can dig in, hustle, get up early, read the best books, write and rewrite and rewrite again.  I can do the work.  I can put in the hours.  I can quit worrying so much about how the work will be received—which I can never control—and instead put my time and energy into being the best writer I can be.  It’s the work itself that is “our salvation and our joy.”

The only part of the process we can control is the sweat of our brow.  The rest was never up to us.  Almost no matter what we do in life, we don’t have control of the final outcome.  We can teach our kids the faith but we can’t make them believe.   We can write great books, but we can’t make folks read them.  We can sew seeds in the ground, but we can’t make them grow.

We can enjoy the fruits of our labor when they come, but we can’t demand that there be fruit.  We can only do our work everyday.

So, in humility, we come to this one big, wild life and ask for job to do. Work that serves someone else.  Work that matters because it meets my neighbor’s needs.  Work that’s hard because it’s important.  Work that will break us,  but will in the process teach us things about life and about ourselves that we can’t learn any other way.

Maybe we should stop trying to find ways around our work.  Maybe we should stop asking for so many results from our work and start looking for ways to do our work better.  Instead of a bigger blog, let’s work to make a better blog.  Instead of hoping for perfect kids, let’s practice being wiser moms.  Instead of always trying to measure the results, let’s learn to count the hours.

Today,  we come to our work with thankful hearts—that we’ve been given a job to do.

Even if it takes 10,000 hours to learn to do it well.

And even if it goes largely unseen by the world.

There are no shortcuts.  Only the work of our hands for the sake of our brother.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have 20,000 words to delete and rewrite.

“Good human work honors God’s work.  It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God. But such blasphemy is not possible when the entire Creation is understood as holy and when the works of God are understood as embodying and thus revealing His spirit.” ~Wendell Berry

26 comments on “The Fruits of Our Labor”

  1. Edie! Well done. I promise you’re not alone in these feelings, and thanks for articulating the answer, the focus. Enjoy the rewriting! Can’t wait to hear about this new project. Now I’m off to some inexpert work of my own. xoxo

  2. Dearest Edie,
    The work that you do is “good works.” Any doubts or fears or anything unsettling is as you know an opportunity to reach out and draw nearer to our Heavenly Father who in you is shining his light brightly. Recently, someone whom I admire a great deal said that indeed we have all been called to a vocation and it is our job to not only respond to the work that we have been called to but to also get out of the way so that God can do the work through us. That’s the age-old struggle of all human kind. To be proficient as well as excellent in our vocations is not enough if our heart is to serve the act of perfecting the craft. It is God who makes our work perfect through the imperfectness of our efforts. You are already an excellent writer. Sure, more time spent writing will perfect your skill; however, your intentions are already perfected through your trust in God and your willingness to allow a gift he gave to you to be used to shine his light to the world. So many of us believe in you, Edie not because you are an excellent writer, but because what you write speaks to our hearts that reflects the love of our Father who placed that love there for you to share. Keep up the good work, my friend, it is indeed excellent work!

  3. Our family has been influenced by Gladwell’s book as well. It’s hard work, but you can do it! And you have so many readers who appreciate and are encouraged by the work you are already doing. I’m on your side.

  4. You are honoring God because YOU are doing good work! I am learning so much from the sharing of your thoughts and beliefs. You are still homeschool teaching to us that are following your blog. Bless you and continue being You!

  5. Our church recently had the adult Sunday school classes do a series of lessons on work. And now you’re blog. It’s so encouraging to me. Because work is hard and sometimes unappreciated and never perfect. The sentence that really resonated: “Maybe we should stop asking for so many results from our work and start looking for ways to do our work better.” I find I am so much happier and healthier when I put in a good day of work. I don’t snack. I sleep better. I feel more satisfied and less self-critical. That is what God has made us to do. And now, I must go do more of it!
    Thanks for all the hard work you put into making your blog high quality. It does not go unnoticed.

  6. Love your words here:

    “So. I have a choice. I can throw in the towel and say maybe I’m not cut for this. Or I can dig in, hustle, get up early, read the best books, write and rewrite and rewrite again. I can do the work. I can put in the hours. I can quit worrying so much about how the work will be received—which I can never control—and instead put my time and energy into being the best writer I can be. It’s the work itself that is “our salvation and our joy.”

    Grit. Passion. Go get it.

    Exactly the recipe needed or a life well lived.

    Happy writing!

    .mac 🙂

  7. I remember the first time The Lord drew my attention to the words, “Take heed to yourself…” in Paul’s letters to Timothy. Too often I look to improve the surroundings or the outcome, missing the fact that the greatest work of God is that I be made “like His Son” in my daily life.

  8. “Maybe we should stop trying to find ways around our work. Maybe we should stop asking for so many results from our work and start looking for ways to do our work better. Instead of a bigger blog, let’s work to make a better blog. ”

    Yes, yes. Amen, sister. Love this post. xo

  9. Edie, Your post and some wise words from my husband inspired this prayer. I thought I’d share it with you.

    Lord,

    Thank you for the work You’ve given me today…
    Enable me to do it well,
    to do it with contentment,
    to do it in service to and for the good of my neighbor.

    Give me the courage and grace
    to leave the response, the results and the fruit of my labors
    in Your hands.

    Amen.
    Let it be so.

  10. Having to delete and rewrite is so very hard. I’m no expert, but I remember when I read the first draft of my novel and realized that while I’d figured out plot and some characterization when I hammered it out, I wouldn’t be able to use most of that draft because it just wasn’t up to snuff. I had to delete most of it, which felt like cutting off an arm, and then rewrite. It was worth it in the end but ouch! Best wishes, friend, just keep going…

  11. “Instead of always trying to measure the results, let’s learn to count the hours.” Love this!! 🙂 Just do what God has gifted you to do and allow Him to do the rest. I have full confidence I’ll be reading a fabulous book (books 😉 ) by you one day. 🙂

  12. thank you so much for this post. I love Wendell Berry. I would love to be able to write like him. He’s kind of my writing hero. I, too, would like to write, and your words have inspired me. To keep working, and not to worry about what others think, or whether they approve. Just to do my very best as the Lord calls me. thanks, Edie.

  13. I am new to your blog and I love it, Edie! I am a book junkie too and I keep adding the ones you mention to my list. Thanks for writing.

  14. “Maybe we should stop trying to find ways around our work. Maybe we should stop asking for so many results from our work and start looking for ways to do our work better. Instead of a bigger blog, let’s work to make a better blog. Instead of hoping for perfect kids, let’s practice being wiser moms. Instead of always trying to measure the results, let’s learn to count the hours.”

    So so good Edie. Amen.

  15. There are some GREAT nuggets here: I love this: “I can quit worrying so much about how the work will be received—which I can never control—and instead put my time and energy into being the best writer I can be. It’s the work itself that is “our salvation and our joy.”” And I also love and needed to hear that we need to do this even if it goes largely unseen by the world and many other things you said here. But I won’t quote all of you back to you!! Thanks for being inspiring. I needed to hear it today.

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