There’s No Such Thing as Wasted Effort

By Patrick McNerthney 

Sometimes (meaning twice a year) someone asks me, “What’s your writing process? And when can I have my lawn mower back?”

  • The first question is in response to the fact that I wrote two books. My answer is always the same: “I don’t have a writing process, and thank you for asking me a question. Nobody ever asks me stuff like that and it makes me feel important.”
  • The second questions is in response to the fact that I don’t have a lawn mower and in early spring the grass gets really high (once in March, once in April)—but the lawn service doesn’t start until May—so I have to borrow some poor slob’s lawn mower, which I always forget to return. Mostly because I’m too tired after mowing the dang lawn so I just put it in my shed. My answer is always the same: “Was that yours? Of course–I’ll get it right now.”

Anyway, I don’t have a writing process because in my opinion—and Merriam Webster’s Dictionary’s opinion—a process is “a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.” And I have a problem with both “series” and “steps.” (I know, you were expecting me to say “end.”)

(But how do I get to the top?)

There is no “series.” There are no “steps.” THERE IS JUST ONE STEP: begin. Because if you don’t begin, nothing happens.

It works like this: There’s no such thing as wasted effort when it comes to writing. Sure, sometime the effort results in:

  1. Bad writing (what we call SFDs, Sucky First Drafts)
  2. Boring writing (what we call BLW) because it’s lazy
  3. Timid writing (TW–usually in response to a client’s pressure to “play the notes as written” because they “don’t want to upset a customer” which is code for “we want to please absolutely everybody and of course that results in not saying anything at all))
  4. Rushed writing (RW–no explanation needed for us procrastinators)
  5. Uninspired writing (For UW, see #2)
  6. Angry writing—typically indulged in by homeowners, city workers, and landlords in the form of signs—“NO DOGS ON LAWN,” “NO SKATEBOARDING,” or “CAUTION: STANDING ON YOUR HEAD WHILE PLAYING IN FOUNTAIN MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH,” despite the fact that the lawn isn’t fenced in, the walking path is a perfect place to skate, and a huge  fountain is a way too tempting thing to put in a boring courtyard.

(Told ya it’s the perfect place to skate.)

But for a writer, even angry sign creation is not wasted effort. Because at a bare minimum, the only writing that counts is the writing we actually get around to WRITING. 

Sure, while the reader might appreciate the perfect prose over a hastily worded, frenetic mess, the latter is vastly preferable to what’s most likely to happen if we put it off: we’ll never get around to sending that message. 

PLUS—any of the above examples usher us to the next thing we’re gonna write after it. I.e., the next iteration, the sequel, the prequel, etc. 

So, if none of examples 1-6 are a waste, then none of them are a good enough excuse not to write. 

See? There is no magical “process” or guaranteed“steps.” There is only one step: begin. (I forget to do this simple step all the time, hmmph!)

This same simple step applies to your work as a caregiver of the elderly, children with challenges, and people who need assistance with life’s daily tasks: your effort is never wasted. 

Even when you’re frustrated, when you look at what you’re doing and see no change in those you’re trying to help, your effort counts! Because at a bare minimum,what may feel like a slog to you, matters deeply to them. 

Besides, the alternative is you stop trying (i.e. NOT “BEGIN”)—and THAT would be a REAL problem for those suffering from anxiety and depression resulting from social isolation. 

And, your every effort is an iteration, and iterations can lead to the next thing you’re gonna try,which is where Fine Art Miracles (FAM) can help. 

FAM leverages the power of creative expression to connect those struggling with social isolation with their inherent superpowers: 

  • confidence
  • self-mastery
  • relevance the outside world
  • pride
  • and the simple joy that comes from being seen and heard

Art Therapy, Drumming & Exercise Therapy, Multi-Sensory Sessions, Music Therapy, Drama Therapy (and so much more!) lower anxiety and depression in  your residents and loved ones by giving them a channel through which to focus their own effort. That’s it. It’s a way for EVERYONE to BEGIN.

So why are you procrastinating? Give FAM a call or drop them a note, they’re happy to help!

Well, I was cleaning my windows and found  a bunch of rogue supplies: tools, and equipment that I”m sure don’t belong to yours truly…. I guess I could track down who owns what and return it. 

BUT WAIT. Before I do that I might as well sit myself down and write a paragraph of, let’s see..I know–how about some humor stuff—I can’t really tell you to “begin” if I don’t start practicing it myself.


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