Working With What You Have

Some trees can't stand the sun's intensity.

Some trees can’t stand the sun’s intensity.

July is the hottest month for most Northern Hemisphere areas, and we often have 30 days of more than 110 degrees in the Sonoran Desert. Most of those over-hot days happen in July and August. Each year, I buy plants that say “full sun” on their needs. Now, “full sun” may mean 6 to 8 hours of sunshine, but it doesn’t mean the intense heat we have here. And each year I struggle to keep those plants alive. That makes as much sense as trying to keep the leaves on the trees in October in Vermont. It’s just not going to happen.

This morning I quit watering the straw those plants turned into and decided to put my efforts into the ones that could survive without a lot of extra work.

And that’s exactly what happens with your creativity, too. Put it in a place where it can’t possibly survive, and the struggle is ugly and non-productive.

Whether that’s a bad relationship, bad conference you feel you should have loved, bad project you thought would be great, or bad book you are reading, there are some efforts that won’t be rewarded. Goethe, the German thinker and poet, said “Die Arbeit ist nicht immer mit Erfolg gekrönt,” —Your work is not always guaranteed success. (I know it’s not the literal translation, the interpretation was called for here.)

A plant that thrives in the desert.

A plant that thrives in the desert.

So why not eliminate all those dead creative places that aren’t worth saving?  Sometimes it’s far more worthwhile to be very honest, determine that you do not have the stamina, strength, materials, smarts or spirit to make this project succeed, or even move forward. The smart thing to do is to stop pouring your effort into a bottomless pit and spend more of your effort doing something that will give you a better result.

Yes, this is different from stopping because you are bored or tired, or walking away from your job because there is something more appealing to go after.  Spend the precious water you have in the Sonoran desert to nurture the plant that can adapt to the desert. Put your energy behind the projects that will work. You will be better off for it.

–Quinn McDonald lives in the desert and is happily thriving.