Getting Over the Hump Day – Welcome Joshua GrahamPosted: August 29, 2012
Joshua Graham and I met on the Amazon Kindle Facebook page back when you could have a conversation there and not be deluged with author self-promotion. I was lucky to discover his book Beyond Justice, a legal thriller with a Christian theme that does a great job of delivering a message while still appealing to a broad audience. Joshua’s latest novel, DARKROOM, hit 3 bestseller lists on Amazon the night of its release.
I’m delighted to have him here today to share a great story about staying committed when things are tough.
COMMITTED, NOT INSPIRED
How to keep motivated when things aren’t going their best
You’ve had your glory days and they were good, but now, as the luster of the moment or season has faded, you’re back at the daily grind again. You know, that place where you were before that great victory, that award you won, that promotion, or whatever it was that sent your emotions into the stratosphere. If you’re a writer, you’re now staring at the nemesis of all writers: the blinking cursor on the blank screen, and wondering, how can I do this again? How can I get back to that place—that happy place, where I felt on top of the world?
Sometimes it feels like you can’t go on, when that feeling is gone. Like in that chorus of the song by The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, those feelings are “gone, gone, gone.” Truth be told, those are times you just want to quit—can I get a witness?
Back in the mid 1980’s, when I first got accepted to Juilliard as a cello student, I was on top of the world. I felt like a big fish swimming where others only dreamed of getting accepted. Before that, I had practiced many hours every day, trying to catch up to other students who’d been studying since they were 4 years old. (I started taking cello lessons at 14, so by the time college came around, I was behind by about a decade.) But thanks to God’s grace, a great teacher, and practicing like mad for 6-8 hours a day for four years, I made it.
So, by the time I got into Juilliard, I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
Until I went to the practice rooms and heard all the wunderkinds practicing around me.
To say that I was in a state of shock and awe would be a gross understatement. These kids were amazing! Some of them were already giving concerts in all the major halls, had recording contracts with major labels, and subbing for greats like Itzhak Perlman. They deserved all that success because they were true geniuses.
But I began to suffer from an acute case of intimidation and discouragement. I feared going to those practice rooms with paper thin walls, because if I could hear three other musicians around me practicing, they could all hear me.
Practicing became a frightening experience. Performing was literally feeling the opposite of what they tell you to do to overcome stage fright: I felt like *I* was the one in my underwear before the audience. Finally, under the weight of it all, I told my teacher I felt like quitting.
What he said to me in response shaped my attitude for the rest of my life. He said [I’m paraphrasing a bit] “I can understand why you want to quit. And to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t think any less of you if you chose to do that. It’s a tough road and not for everyone. But it’s a lot like marriage. You see, when you first started playing the cello, you were merely infatuated. You didn’t have very high standards and you didn’t know better. You played because it was fun and it pleased you. But now, as you improve and your standards are raised and continue to be challenged to push you to the highest levels, it’s not as fun. It’s hard work, and even painful. But if you’re committed to the art you love, you’re not in it for what it gives you, but what you give to it. That’s what love is: giving, not taking.
“People get divorced when things get tough, when that “loving feeling” is gone. People quit when it’s not fun anymore, or it gets too challenging. But those who stick with it, those who work through it and work things out? Only they will experience a lasting joy that those who quit never will. There’s a high price to pay for it, but the rewards of staying true, and staying the course are incomparable.”
You know, I’m so glad my teacher didn’t say, “No, don’t quit. You’re too talented, what a waste that would be. All that hard work, all that time!” Deep down, I was a little hurt he didn’t try to talk me out of it, but that hurt lasted only a few seconds. Instead, he told it to me like it was. Count the cost, do it for the love, and be committed when it feels bad and when it isn’t giving you pleasure.
Now, flash-forward 26 years with me.
I recently began an exercise regime with an awesome former Marine drill instructor. I’d been feeling really out of shape and after many failed attempts at the gym, I had to do something for my health’s sake. A friend of mine from church had been a member of this exercise program and had lost about 50 pounds during the time he joined. So, my family and I decided we’d join too.
On the first day, after the rigors of military physical training, I felt like throwing up. Apparently, several before me had done that on their first day, so I didn’t feel so bad. What kept me going was the motivation of my peers and the instructor. One thing my instructor said that resonates with the words of my cello teacher two and a half decades ago is: “We’re committed, not inspired,” meaning, we show up, give it our all, and keep going, not because we feel like doing it, but because we have committed to doing what it takes to get results.
“Committed, not inspired” is what my cello teacher was getting me to understand back then, and what my Motivational Drill Instructor is reminding me of today. During those days when I don’t feel particularly excited about working out, writing, or anything else to which I’m committed, I remember this and I do what it takes, not because I feel like it, but because it’s the right thing to do.
Whatever it is that you’re committed to—your job, your family, your marriage, your art, your workouts– just remember that when you’re not feeling it, that’s when you dig in your heels and refuse to quit. Don’t go it alone. Get some other like-minded friends or even a coach, to keep you going and push through the pain. In the end, you will reap the fruit of commitment that you will never otherwise know. And that fruit is sweet.
Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).
Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in Southern California. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press.
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