As I struggle to squeeze out the words for #WednesdaywithWendell before it becomes #ThursdaywithWendell (update: too late), I check this quote from his essay “People, Land and Community”:

“Correct discipline cannot be hurried, for it is both the knowledge of what ought to be done, and the willingness to do it — all of it, properly. The good worker will not suppose that good work can be made properly answerable to haste, urgency, or even emergency.” (The Art of the Commonplace, p. 187)

Good work.

What value do these words have in a depressed word economy?

I’ve most often hear them spoken on the back end of an interaction.

Person A: “I finished my 800 page novel.”

Person B: “Good work.”

In this way, it doesn’t comment on the quality of the work itself, but on the fact that the work was completed. This suggests that the completion of the work is more important than the quality of the work itself.

That’s dumb.

I was discussing self-imposed deadlines with a collaborator earlier today. We exchanged compliments. I’m good at writing everyday. She’s good at not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Note that Berry doesn’t say “perfect work”. He says “good work”. My inclination to guarantee perfect work, besides being impossible, is probably a sign of my own lack of confidence in my writing.

Shhhh. Don’t tell my agent.

Anyway, Berry’s speaking of “good work” in the context of taking care of his farm.  I don’t own a farm though, so I have to find another way to apply the concept in my own life.

Enter this blog.

And a farm metaphor.

There was nothing here before I got here. Just a small plot of cleared land surrounded by other farms, large and small. It’s been a couple of months now, and I’m still figuring out what seeds to plant, how I want to lay the crops out. After that I have to nurture the seeds I plant and protect them. The work is not done once the seed begins to grow. I can’t leave the crop alone to take care of itself. I have to protect it even more diligently as it is now exposed to the elements and a whole new set of potential pests. If I do all this, will it be enough?

“But the good worker knows too that after it is done work requires yet more time to prove its worth.”


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