Shirt Sandwiches

Yes, this is exactly how neat and organised my workspace is. Exactly. Not.

You all probably know by now that I’m doing NaNoWriMo. That is, I’ve been writing a novel this month of November, aiming to get 50,000 words written by the end of the month. It’s been fantastic fun.

You may think I’m insane, but I have been enjoying myself immensely.

That is not to say that some days it is very hard to sit down and write the required 1667 words. And I don’t think I’ve had even one day where things have flown so well that I’ve not noticed the time go by and have looked up to find 4000 words on the page. It hasn’t been like that at all.

It’s been hard work.

Nouns and Verbs

I listened to Simple the other day and Tsh was talking about nouns and verbs. I’ll let you listen if you want the whole story, but the upshot was, you don’t get to be the ‘noun’ if you don’t do the ‘verb’.

For example, 

  • you are not a writer unless you sit down and write.
  • you are not a baker unless you spend hours in the kitchen getting all floury
  • you are not a runner unless you spend time outside sweating and puffing and dodging geriatric dog-walkers

A person who sits inside on the couch and watches running videos all day may be very interested in running, they may love the look of running, but they are not a runner. Not unless they run.

A shirt sandwich.

Whatever you decide to do with your life, there are good parts of that thing and there are bad parts. But if you really want that thing, you’ll put up with the bad parts. 

Mark Manson asks this question (and I’ll give you the ‘The Good Place’ interpretation):  ‘What’s your favourite flavour of shirt sandwich?’

In other words, you need to look at the work involved in an idea and decide if you’re willing to do that work. If you love, like I do, sitting at a laptop and bashing out a couple of thousand words a day, if you’re willing to do that, then you may be ready to be a writer.

If you love, like I definitely don’t, pushing your body to the limit, watching your toenails fall off, and getting rubbing rashes, then you’re good to go to run a marathon.

There are payoffs for everything, but you need to be willing to do the work.

I’ve been employed in the arts since graduating.

This week on the podcast we talk with Catherine Gaffney, an actor and voice-over artist. She said she’s so blessed that she’s been employed in the arts since she graduated from her undergrad degree about twenty years ago. That made it sound like she’s had her dream career, that she’s been acting all her adult life. But when we pushed a bit further, it turns out that she hadn’t been working on the stage all that time – sometimes she was in the box office, sometimes coaching or teaching, sometimes narrating audio books, and yes, sometimes on the stage. She hasn’t stood on her dignity and refused to do anything other than act. She’s accepted that some of the work is less fun than other parts. She’s grateful just to be in the arts.

This week I wanted to make you think, what is it that you are willing to do some hard stuff for so that you’ll get the payoff? What is your shirt sandwich? What are some drudge jobs you are grateful for because they keep you going with your dream?

I’d love to hear your answers.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

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