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The Fruitful Kernels of Time

“The truly efficient laborer will not crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure, and then do but what he loved best.  He is anxious only about the fruitful kernels of time…  Some hours seem not to be occasion for any deed, but for resolves to draw breath in.  We do not directly go about the execution of the purpose that thrills us, but shut our doors behind us and ramble with prepared mind, as if the half were already done.  Our resolution is taking root or hold on the earth then, as seeds first send a shoot downward which is fed by their own albumen, ere they send one upward to the light.”  – Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Sometimes I’ll pick up any old Thoreau book and flip to a random page to see what he has to offer.  Thoreau offers a lot. Often he’ll casually flip a healthy dose of wisdom across time, and I’m the better for having found it. I’m in a post-vacation/pre-holidays work funk where I haven’t quite found my stride again (Some hours seem not to be occasion for any deed), and Thoreau’s analogy of the seed setting its root resonates for me. I don’t seem to have this funk with writing, but with my career it’s been a struggle. These are not days to work from home. To find your stride again you need to move, and I’ve booked meetings in faraway places to do just that.

Writing seems immune to the funk, but the reality is that the fuel for writing is the distraction in my career. Solitude, travel, reading and long walks inspire writing but not sales. Business meetings, commuting, grinding out proposals and crafting concise emails suck the life out of writing but fill the sales pipeline and ultimately keep the lights on. Knowing this, I work to balance the two appropriately. My job isn’t going to offer immortality but it feeds the family. Allocate time accordingly, and write in the quiet corners of the day.

“Perfect freedom is reserved for the man who lives by his own work and in that work does what he wants to do.” – R.G. Collingwood

The reality is that most of us aren’t living in perfect freedom. We live in chains of our own creation. Does that have a negative connotation? Only if you view it that way. For me I happen to enjoy feeding the family, and the grind of the job offers its own rewards too. The writing is transformative, and I regret the years of neglect, but shake myself free of that trap when I recognize it. We’ve only today, and so I produce what I can in this moment, bit-by-bit, like the seed taking root before reaching to the light. Will it yield fruit eventually? Every seed believes so.

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