Because They Are Hard

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From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Last night, I spent an hour trying to find a word. Not because I’m having cognitive issues or because I’m being exceptionally picky. I was doing my Spanish homework. The professor gave us a definition for a word in the story we had read, and wanted us to find the word to go with the definition.

I understood the definition. I thought I understood every word in that story. Could I find the word she wanted? Hell, no. As you can tell, I’m still a bit frustrated by this.

And midway through that frustrating and ultimately futile search, I heard myself think, I’m 60 years old. Why am I putting myself through this?

That thought came up a lot yesterday. I’ve revamped my system so that I’m pushing myself in a couple of areas. I have set deadlines that I could have easily met once before in my life, but haven’t strived to do in years, partly because I had been so ill for so long. (See the recent post titled “Deadlines.”) I had gotten into the habit of thinking I can’t or I can only instead of why not try?

2021 has become the year for me to try. I’m working on revamping my thinking in a variety of areas, from what I’m capable of to what I want to do. It’s a whole different way of approaching life, one I haven’t had the ability to do for nearly thirty years.

. . . .

I sure understand now why so many adults want to coast. I could do so. I could let my professor give me a pass on a number of things, from my dyslexia to my lack of time. But I’m the one who chose to take the class as a student, not audit it, and I’m the anal doofus who still wants to get good grades, even though I know (at some point in some class) a good grade won’t be possible.

Hence the striving. The hour spent on a single word when I could have been doing something—anything—else.

. . . .

A friend of mine went back to school for his M.F.A a few years back (required to do so for a job he needed to get) and he cut every single corner he could. He got dual credit for the work he was doing as work and also for class. I suppose I could do that, in a variety of areas, if I wanted to.

I don’t want to. We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I realized that’s kind of my mantra for life itself. I get very frustrated when a writing student of mine or a writer friend of mine complains that writing is “hard.” I get even more frustrated when they get angry and want to quit after a rejection.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

4 thoughts on “Because They Are Hard”

  1. Some folks think of cutting corners as “working smart” vs “working hard”.
    (Unless there’s safety issues involved, of course.)
    Sometimes dotting and crossing letters is due dilligence, doing the job right, but sometimes it’s outdated practices and make-do. It helps to know the difference and be willing to be better.

    As for the assignment, it’s probably a useful skill for a writer to know how to find “hust the right& word.

    As in:


  2. A friend of mine went back to school for his M.F.A a few years back (required to do so for a job he needed to get) and he cut every single corner he could.

    Makes sense to me. The guy wants the job, not the MFA.

    • Nor is her friend “cutting a corner.” He’s simply not doing work that he has already done, and knows how to do. Top business grad schools do this all the time, in partnership with companies, where their grad students work on real marketing plans, budgeting, etc. (This is also basically the life of grad students in STEM – working real research or engineering projects.)

      What would KKR feel about an assignment to “write a short fantasy story”? Uh, Professor, I already have a couple hundred of those written and published? What will I learn from this? (Now, if she were asked to “write a short fantasy story in Spanish” – that would be hard, and a learning experience.)

      Her “definition to word” assignment is different. She is being asked to do something that she does not already know, and that the instructor believes she will learn from.

      Now, as to “cutting corners” by making accommodations for her time issues, or dyslexia – well, some might call that “wimping out.” However, academia frequently has little overlap with the real world of many of their students, so I would also not call that “cutting corners” (which phrase, for most people, synonomizes to “cheating”).

      • That sounds about right. I remember an editor in the undergrad journalism program warning us not to take any grad / masters classes until we worked first. He explained that the point of a master’s is to get into the nitty gritty, and you had to have had several years of work experience under your belt before you would have anything useful to contribute to class. A masters isn’t supposed to be strictly academic in that scenario. Actual management or project work etc. means you know “short cuts.”

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