Human beings love to believe in those beautiful moments where someone’s life (preferably their own) is turned around. Whether it’s quitting drugs, getting help for mental health issues, or actually committing to training for the Olympics, we truly believe the commitment is decided in a split second.
Hollywood is partially responsible for this misconception. We are all familiar with the montage: the music swells, the glasses go on, the hands of the clock go around a few times, and suddenly Rocky is at the top of those stairs, Elle becomes a star law school student, and Mulan is made a man.
Which is really fucking misleading.
Whether it’s losing weight, developing a new skill, or learning an instrument, we KNOW that a commitment requires constant renewal. We know that some days even wiggling a finger will feel like the struggle of a lifetime. We know that the initial blast of inspiration will fizzle and that we will have to find a new flint to rekindle the flame. We know that we will get a cold that will rob us of energy, or that asshole Tim will make us stay late for a month at work and ruin our schedule, or that we will end up eating an entire wheel of cheese because we needed it. We will say to ourselves “I can’t do it now, but next year, I swear it is going to happen.” Sometimes, we’re just not ready for that kind of serious relationship with willpower.
So we turn to the shortcuts. “Magical weight loss pills” fly off the shelves, “learn how to code in 5 minutes!” books sell like hotcakes, and youtube videos that promise to teach an instrument “in just one hour” have millions of views. Somehow, we’ve gotten it in our heads that we can avoid plain old hard work.
Despite what the movies make us believe, we can’t. Transformation is hard. It sucks.
We should know this. It’s what all the writers tell you in their acknowledgements. They detail their ups and downs, their late nights and frustrations…but it’s all in a series of paragraphs. If you’re like me, you read the section, go into daydream mode, picture a montage, and say to yourself “wow, I could see myself doing that.” It’s an interesting fallacy: I can read it in 30 seconds, which makes it seem as though the blood sweat and tears will be just as brief. Soon I will be penning my own heartfelt words of thanks to Great Aunt Bertha and Neighbor Tod who read all of my shitty drafts and brought me hot chocolate when I was devoid of inspiration. What a lovely dream.
I am just beginning to wake up from this dream and face the ugly truth that I can’t cut corners anymore. Even if I don’t want to do something as difficult as write a book, I need to begin working hard to get what I want and where I want in life. Furthermore, I have to work hard now. Not tomorrow, not after lunch, not right after I watch this quick Seth Meyers video on Youtube.
It’s time for me to enter the montage.
I am heartened by the fact that so many others have done it before me–thank you to all of you writers out there who inspire me every day (and even though there are no short cuts, you guys give some pretty great tips on mitigating the misery).