Over Christmas, a close friend got the kids presents—an absolute blessing. But two presents for the 6-year-old were dinosaur-egg-dig-kit things. After letting the eggs soak, I let my son spread himself out on a table and begin the good work of digging into the plaster/clay. I tell him that paleontologists have to painstakingly excavate little by little, sometimes weeks perhaps even months so as not to damage the delicate fossils.
With astute devotion, my son digs in with small tools into soft clay for about 4 minutes. By then, I see the visible frustration begin to rise—the small plastic tools too inept for the task at hand. He asks to simply run the eggs under the sink and to let him just hack away with a better tool.
I try to gently show how he must embrace the slow process and work of excavating for the hidden treasure inside. As the words tumble out of my mouth, my mind remembers.
The day before, I had been frustrated that my writing felt stagnant. (Before Teach Write sessions, which I just started in December 2020, I wrote very little creative writing for myself during the school year, even less over the summer.) A few days before and a few afterward, I stare at my poems, lifeless heaps of words that don’t sing to me. I don’t register that I haven’t tried writing poetry in a long time, and I’ve only written two poems with my classes so far this school year. I began exercising more regularly in November. I grimace as the scale only tells me I have gained weight when I have put in the work for weeks. Weeks! I recall a meme shared somewhere of how it feels to work out for one day and stare at the mirror or scale in expectance.
I know it is my obligation to teach my son good things take time and work. Progress is gradual. A core building block of work ethic and character is to be able to delay gratification.
To enjoy the journey.
“It’s not about the destination but the process.”
“[Good writing] is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
The First Temple in Jerusalem took seven years, and that was led by the wisest guy around. Supposedly no hammer, chisel, or iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was built.
“You eat the whale one bite at a time…”
—or so my brother says. There will be a day when this is all passed down. But today is not that day. Today we merely wash the clay, submerge it. Dig in. Break-in. Process be damned. Today we plunder.