Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

The Callus

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The Artist

In his book, Journal of a Novel, John Steinbeck describes the daily process of writing his novel, East of Eden.

If you want to understand more of the struggles and difficulties of an accomplished writer hard at work in his craft, the journal is a great resource.

The ideas do not just apply to writing, but to any work, any craft, that is worth devoting ourselves to. Writing a novel is similar to writing a better story with our lives.

In the book, I came across one quote that most would skip over as insignificant, but the implications of the statement struck me.

The callus on my finger is getting sore. It has grown too large.

-John Steinbeck

Of course, at that time, everyone wrote with a pen and paper. Steinbeck wrote so much that it showed.

He didn’t just have a finger, but a writing finger. The one the pen utilized for the transfer of words and phrases and beauty from his brain and imagination onto a piece of paper.

And this writing finger had been used so much that a large callus had formed. And even on a professional writer, it was sore.

photo by Matt Olson (Creative Commons)

The Friction

Living better stories and pursuing dreams results in friction between our comfortable lives and the dream. Friction creates thickened, hardened skin. The callus.

If the callus could just magically appear, more people would have them. It isn’t the thickened skin that bothers us, it’s the process of developing the scar.

When we seek to do remarkable work, taking on risk, calluses will form.

In the beginning the work feels good because the friction takes time to build. We feel like we have hit our stride, impossible to slow down. But with time, the friction adds up.

Our efforts will meet resistance. Obstacles will get in the way. Reasons to give up and play it safe will emerge.

Our skin becomes raw and blistered. The forming callus painful and bloody.

Some of the resistance may come from outside sources. Family, friends, coworkers.

But the worst of it, the part that creates the most friction, will come from within.

You will get in the way of your work. Your brain will instinctively tell you to play it safe. To avoid this process. To keep your skin clean, soft, and smooth.

At some point everything in your being will tell you to stop. To avoid the callus.

The Callus

Fighting through the resistance creates friction. Persistance despite friction forms the callus.

The callus is a sign of a warrior, a professional.

You need the callus. It can only form through work. Time. Persistence. Pain.

If we stop when the skin begins to bleed, it will certainly heal, but we will be unchanged from the experience.

If we try to protect our skin from the friction, this protection will become a crutch. Something we depend on to do our work.

If we push through, the callus will form and we will have the mark of one who loves the work.

Once the callus has formed and matured, then it is yours and nothing can take it away.

In your work of living a better story, in pursuing your dream, have you formed any calluses?

Tell us about the friction in the comments.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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6 Replies

  1. jim work

    Ah friction, it does come. From reading your post today, the thought came to me that we can also get fire from friction.
    To not always think of friction as a bad thing. We need to slow down to maintain control on the steep curves………….thanx for the impetus…nada te turbe…..jim

  2. I think you are right. We can learn to use the friction to help us.

  3. Man, Jeremy. This is nothing short of divine inspiration. I can compare it to playing the guitar. I played for years, took lessons, and then took a year off. And the calluses disappeared. And to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of what I learned. Just like Steinbeck we need to get a bit bloody and calloused and keep those calluses. I cannot believe I’ve never heard of this journal. It’s going to the top of my list. Thanks so much for this post.

  4. Guitar is a great analogy. Thanks for mentioning it.

  5. Diane Turner

    Great post, Jeremy. And for us who aspire to be writers, friction against the chair forms the callus on the butt. I guess it could be worse.

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