Toni Morrison On Making Your Work Look Effortless

So you want to get good, eh? Here’s Toni Morrison on leveling up:

I thought of myself as like the jazz musician: someone who practices and practices and practices in order to be able to invent and to make his art look effortless and graceful. I was always conscious of the constructed aspect of the writing process, and that art appears natural and elegant only as a result of constant practice and awareness of its formal structures.

Here’s the breakdown:

Work until it doesn’t feel or look like work.

Take the time to learn the structure behind the form.

Get so good at the structure behind the form that those who don’t know won’t even question if, how, or why it’s there, because they’ll be so caught up in just how good it is.

Morrison may be talking about writing, but it really does apply anywhere.

If you’re doing work for someone else, this is how you become a lynchpin. You’d be indefensible if what you did looked effortless but everybody would freak out if you were suddenly gone.

If you’re doing work for yourself, this is how you take your craft so seriously that anyone else who tried would say, “damn, this is really hard.” And, if most people think it’s too hard but you push on? You’ll be breathing rarified air.

Put the work in until you can make it look effortless. Then do it some more. That’s where success comes from.

*via “Toni Morrison, The Art of Fiction, No. 134” in The Paris Review

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