Do the work

It all started with the Mad Men episode this past spring where Don is upset at having to work under Peggy, his protégé. He is walking out of the office in the middle of the day to go to baseball games, drinking in excess, and generally not working at all. He expected things to be different when he was allowed back at Sterling Cooper Draper Price, but it isn’t working out how he thought it would.

In the episode, Freddie looks at Don after another drunken day and says:

Do the work Don.

I read Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed a month or so ago. There is a letter in the book from a young writer who expects to be more successful than she is in her mid twenties. She has so many doubts about herself that she is frozen, unable to write. Sugar’s response is amazing and this is just one piece of it:

We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to orverride your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer, and it’s especially true of writers who are twenty-six. You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you. (p. 58)

This has addeded up to me having a new way of thinking about my work. My theme, especially since Editorially shut down, has been a bit modified:

Do the work with no expectation.

Meaning, I need to just do the work. If it is client work, do it well and deliver. If it is writing, just sit down and write. If it is helping out a person entering the industry, be generous with my knowlege and time. But the key for me has become the second part, I should expect nothing. I shouldn’t expect me doing good work should get me anything in particular.

I mean, in the case of client work, I hope I get paid. But what I’m really saying is that I am trying to drop the expectation that I should be somewhere I’m not in life. I am where I am, which is a pretty good place to be most days.