Everyday isn’t Always an Opus

We have such pressure in our society to perform.  To succeed.  To excel.  Somedays this is just not possible.  We have a hard time getting out of bed.

We have a headache, an ear ache, or a stomache ache.  Or perhaps a heart ache.  Or a hemorroid.

We approach the page or the easel with discomfort.  Where is our passion?  Where is our drive? 

Sorry.  It’s impossible to be at the top of your game one hundred percent of the time.  Sometimes you just have to show up and go through the motions.

I was reading in the Observer Book of Art about the artist Marc Quinn.  He says, “I’ll have an idea live with it for quite a long time, write it, draw it, put the drawing on the wall, then make a model.  Because every project takes a different amount of time, I have lots on the go.  Some will wither and die on the vine and others will come to fruition.  It’s a completely organic process.”

A completely organic process.  Because we are organic beings, we have to honor the process of everyday isn’t always an opus.  Just show up everyday and do what you have to do.  Soon you will have a body of work (opus) behind you.  Some of it may even turn into a magnum (great) opus.  Some will not.  Some of it will wither and die, only to be reborn in another form.  Everything is constantly recycled.

This is how it works for me:


Blogging is definitely showing up at the page for your scheduled writing appointment.  Some things will strike a chord in your readers and some things won’t.  Barbara Swafford has an excellent post about most bloggers being quitters.  Go and read it to find out about discipline and showing up at the page.


Sometimes you will show up at the page and think you are writing complete shit.  And you read this supposed shit the next day and think, “Wow, this is pretty damn good!”

Don’t trust your feelings about your writing.  Just write.


If you use a DSLR you can tell right away what is a good picture and what is not.  A DSLR is an impulsive photographer’s dream!  But then comes the task of editing all those pictures.  Time to go to Photoshop or Digital Photo Professional.  I typically have to edit 60 to 250 pictures at one time from a photo shoot.  This takes quite a bit of time cataloging and sorting out the slightly fuzzy from the excellent.  If I don’t keep up with it it could easily overwhelm me.

How do you manage your days when you feel less than optimal?  Do you worry that if your not operating at one hundred percent that your work is substandard?

Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson

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13 thoughts on “Everyday isn’t Always an Opus”

  1. Hi Ellen,

    First off, thank you for the link love.

    I had times in my life when I thought I had to be 100% every day. I was constantly on the go, or at home working on the never ending list of chores or projects. I would rarely sit and relax because I thought IT was expected of me.

    Somehow I woke up and realized the dishes will wait, as will the laundry and some of my work tasks. If I don’t do everything to perfection, it’s O.K. Once I stopped being so hard on myself, started taking ME time, and some days actually not accomplishing much at all, I become more productive, more creative, and worried less. I now take time to enjoy the journey.

    For me, it made all the difference in the world.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..You’re Only As Good As Your Current Post

  2. My Mom keeps saying “Always give it 100%, and at the end of the day, you can be satisfied that you’ve done your best.

    I disagree. Like you so eloquently write here, you cant’ do your best ALL the time.

    It’s just not sustainable to maintain 100%. You’ll burn yourself out.

    A good analogy is running.

    You can maintain a 100% all-out sprint for 10-15 seconds, after which you’re exhausted and need to recover.

    Or you can keep a slower steady pace, and jog for an hour.

    I think life is more like a long jog, with the occasional sprint.

    There..that’s enough of Friar philosophizing for the day.

    Friar’s last blog post..Now Popeye’s gone P.C. on us, too.

  3. @Barbara – I was also looking for your post about getting tired of blogging and I couldn’t find it. I wanted to add it to what I had said under blogging. I’m often too hard on myself and I need more time just to do “nothing.” Nothing is really never a void, because there is always “something” churning or stewing in the pot of creativity. I get overwhelmed with house chore stuff with writing and photography thrown in to the mix. Like today, I check on my blog and visit other people, but that’s all I’ll be able to get to because I have other stuff I have to attend to.

    @Friar – I think things run in cycles and you can’t maintain the constant push without frying yourself! I think giving it one hundred percent applies to doing something top notch that you have been practicing for a long while. Like the musicians in the photo. But they have to practice and listen to dissonance before they get it just right.

  4. Ellen, your post really struck a chord with me (you’re good at that you know). If you have a bad day of working on a book, no one has to see it. With blogging the good, the bad and the ugly are out there for the world to see. I have recently learned the lesson to simply come boldly to the page and write. I will not always write posts that are met with thundering applause but with every post I will grow and learn. I also realized that it would be a cop out to not be honest in this medium that calls for transparency, so I blog even when I must push through the critic, editor and brick wall sprayed with graffiti that says You’re not a writer, you hack!

    Friar, what I learned from marriage is that your 100% on any given day can be 20%, 50%, or 40%. Giving it your best each day is giving the best you have to give in that moment and you’re right it is not always 100%. The great thing about marriage though is that there’s someone else to contribute. 🙂

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Belief + Preparation = You Taking the World by Storm

  5. I have learned to let go of perfectionism. It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. So no, I don’t worry too much about performance. I have learned to enjoy the ride instead of focusing so much on goals and on excellence. I think excellence is way overrated, while fun is way underrated.

    Vered’s last blog post..When Two Bloggers Write an Almost-Identical Post

  6. @Karen – That’s true, a book is a very private matter while blogging is not. I actually have a harder time blogging! I think the more we write the more authenticate we get. The more risks we are willing to take. And that is an important lesson in all facets of life.

    What I learned from marriage is committment. It’s a lot of hard work, and to bad people don’t realize that from the beginning. Maybe then the divorce wouldn’t be higher than 50 percent.

    @Vered – I’m working my way to where you are. Fun is way underrated. I like your philosophy. What is excellence anyway? It’s usually determined by something outside of us.

  7. Ellen,
    I think this is a very important post. I have never written a blog post YET where I have thought “This one is IT, This is the GOOD one. Every one I send out and hit the publish button, I’m thinking, oh well, I hope somebody reads it, I hope it’s what somebody needed today, it felt like that’s what needed to be said. And then I hit it. And I never know. I never know if its good or bad or indifferent. I just do it. Its scary some days. IF I’m tired or distracted or if the house isn’t clean…but then…those days are real too…and that’s what life is all about, getting through it. The good the bad..the ugly…one step at a time.

  8. @Wendi – I have written a lot of stuff that I think is great and other people don’t think so. Most writing is very subjective.

    Somedays you just have to let the house go! I do feel better when things are neat and organized, though. I’m anal that way.

    The Good and the Bad and the Ugly. Like the Clint Eastwood movie. I guess Clint got through it. Yeah, one step at a time. That’s all we can do. Even when the energy is lagging. I’m still figuring out how to best appropriate my energy.

  9. Ellen and Wendi, I so agree with both of you! Ellen this is a VERY IMPORTANT post. There are days when I don’t want to publish because I’m tired, uninspired, uncertain but then I realize that I have committed to the discipline of publishing. Not doing so is copping out and will not help me in my end goal. I know many that offer contrary advice, saying you should only publish your best even if it means publishing once a month. That may work for some people but I NEED to post frequently. I do however think on the other end think it’s fine to not post, or post on your own schedule.

    I have written things that I thought were sheer brilliance too but apparently it was only brilliant to me. LOL! This too is fine because maybe that piece of writing really was for me. 🙂

    Great post and discussion, as always Ellen. I love coming here. 🙂


    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Making MERRY from Failures

  10. @Melissa – I think many writers are too hard on themselves. Especially if they can’t get published. No, you shouldn’t write crap, but you should write consistently. Not everything we write will bowl people over. But, unfortunately, once you get poplular everything you write will bowl people over. I’m thinking of some of Stephen King’s short stories here.

    @Karen – I think if you publish more frequently you probably get a higher Google ranking, but I don’t have time for it everyday. Maybe I will later. Yeah, it depends on what your goals are. I have a hard time keeping up on commenting with bloggers who post every day.

    I remember something similar to this conversation in a previous post on the devouring blog! Blogging is a long term committment. For some people. The way I look at it is why give up when you have come this far?

  11. A great title for this article! I am sure that thinking this way is more encouraging.

    At times when I feel less than optimal, I just think about it as a temporary period of time, I try to playback any previous successful tasks that I accomplished and keep focusing upon reaching another success soon or later.

    —— Don’t trust your feelings about your writing. Just write. —–

    I think most bloggers can really understand this, I never feel any good about my writing at the time of writing, you are totally right about leaving it and coming to check it later on at someday to find another different impression that you get.

    AxeCity’s last blog post..Successful Blog Design

  12. @AxeCity – Even if I don’t feel good about my writing I continue on because I know I can come back and change it later. But if I quit when I don’t think it’s “good,” I’m setting myself up for a bad habit. And I hate breaking bad habits. It seems all my life I have been breaking bad habits. It takes time to get into a good habit.

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