Archive for March, 2007

Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow. ~ Goethe

I love being a novelist. It’s the writing I can’t stand. ~ 19th century novelist


Time and effort are two of the biggest blocks to what we want, it seems. I’m thinking of the envy people often have for the skills of others. We see a figure skater, a piano player, someone in a comfortable and rewarding marriage. We want these things, these skills, but then… Nothing happens. These things rarely just bloom like irises in the spring.

More usually they take work – lots of it. More than you might easily believe. I once saw a man I worked for sit at his desk for three hours, facing a single paragraph on a single sheet of paper. He’d rewrite it, stare at it some more, then rewrite it again, and he kept at it until he was satisfied. It was the lead paragraph of an article he expected to publish in a medical research journal.

This man made his living doing research and writing about it, and his writing had a grace about it which was both wonderful and rare. It was easy to read, and easy to comprehend, and he worked very hard to get it that way, which is why he got things published.

He told me that afternoon “I get asked by graduate students about how to write better. I tell them there are no secrets. It’s simply hard. You have work at it until you get it right. There’s no other way.” I’m a writer. I know that he’s right. I wrote an important email this afternoon – a few paragraphs, and it cost me one and a half hours.


So…many people want to be able to do it – playing the piano, or whatever. Only some – a few – ever get what they want. Does this remind you of anything else? Here’s what it reminds me of….psychotherapy. Sometimes we have magic things happen in therapy. A lot happens, fast. That’s wonderful. Just as often, though, it’s a long slow march in the rain. Like learning to play the piano. If you want to get it right, you have to be willing to invest yourself. To say otherwise would be dishonest.

I discussed this idea with a client of mine this evening. He agreed that too many people are like a piano player who refuses to practice, then whines about how hard it is to play well. And then, he suggested, they schedule a concert! He’s got it right. Too many people believe that marriage is about of “falling in love” with the right person, or that success in life is about being born into the right family. Sure. Dream on. And if that doesn’t work out, go to work figuring how reality really works.

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