My daughter isn’t two weeks old yet, so sometimes she doesn’t want to sleep at night. When I go take my turn trying to console the angry little tomato while my wife gets an hour or three of rest, I know that there is one thing I cannot do that would calm this child down: lactate.

She’s hungry, I can’t feed her, and there’s nothing I can do to stop the wailing and gnashing of gums.

But I have to try and calm her down.

Sometimes I get a moment where she stops crying to burp. Sometimes she’ll even sleep for minutes or (right now I can’t believe this is happening) an hour. Or sometimes she’ll still be bright red but will stop gasping and protesting long enough to take a few good breaths. All of those belong in the win column, even if they don’t mean I get to go to sleep quite yet.

When I sit down to work on yet another draft of something, I try not to think that this will be the time I fix all the problems. It probably won’t. I may not even fix a single problem, and actually create five new ones.

But I have to try and put words on the page.

If I go in with the enthusiasm that this time will be different, and this time will make everything perfect, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. But if I believe that I might not make any real progress and can still push ahead, that sets me up to feel like I at least accomplished the attempt. That I can mark off one more day in the chain of trying.

The Hagakure talks about how a retainer should go into battle believing they are already dead so that they do not act as if they fear death. This is maybe a little morbid of a working motto to attach oneself to.

Brian Eno has a more moderate line:

“The point about working is not to produce great stuff all the time, but to remain ready for when you can.”

It’s a quote I keep up on the wall to remind me that not every day will have an epiphany. Not every run will be a personal best. And now I need to remember that every silly song or diaper check will not necessarily be the thing that calms the ferocious infant.

But that shouldn’t stop me from trying.

By Chris Csont

Becoming a better writer. Becoming a better Homo sapien.

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