We Can Do This The Easy Way Or The Hard Way

I Like Tuttles

About 2, maybe 3pm every day, I hit a wall. Hell, it’s not just a wall. It’s a mountain. NAP MOUNTAIN. With craggy peaks of sweet torpidity, with mighty spires of somnolence. I hit the mountain, and find a small mountain town called Sleepysburg, and there my body is just like, “Fuck this, fuck all of it, fuck you, just — just give into the glorious miasma of lethargy.” And then I lay in the marshmallow streets and stick to the taffy-molasses puddles and —

Well, you get the metaphor. I nap. I fucking nap hard.

Sometimes it’s a 15 minute power nap. That’s usually all I can manage with a toddler running around. Once in a blue moon I manage a deeper dive, and I fall into what could only be described as a nap chasm — me falling into a crater of pure unconsciousness. I can fall into this crater for two hours. I can lose part of my life in this thing. I wake up and forget my name for 15 minutes.

This desire to nap — it times out with the weather.

I look outside, I see gray blah. Like a choir of ashen ghosts joined hands and filled the sky. Everything bleak and blasted and wet and cold. When that happens, my body is all mm blankey and pillow so warm and just shut the crap up and nap already you foolish mortal.

See, but —

When the weather was warm, I’d sometimes use that time to run.

And I remind myself, you should do that now.

And my brain is like BUT BLANKEY

And my brain is also like hey, you should run

And my brain is then like PILLOWS SWEET PILLOWS

And my brain is back to no, but what about running


And today, I was like, yeah, whatever, you might be right but I’m gonna go get on the dumb elliptical anyway, and then I sashayed my grumpy bear body over to the elliptical and clambered onto it, and before I knew it I did a good three miles while I watched a back episode of Gotham. (Which, incidentally, I think is getting better with every episode. Still have a couple to go, though. No spoilers, or I spray you with hot cat urine.)

I did it.

And I wasn’t tired anymore.

I was actually feeling pretty energized.

I took a quick shower and I was ready to conquer the world.

I made a bad-ass dinner and ran around with the toddler and here I am, writing this blog. And now I’m reminded that every day, when I hit that wall, I’m making a choice. I’m deciding whether or not I’m going to take the easy way or the hard way. Am I going to give in, or push back?

The easy way would’ve been to nap. The easy way would’ve been to exude all my willpower from every pore in my body in an aerosolized mist and then just flump down on the bed and that’s that.

The hard way was to admittedly do something not that hard — it’s not like I had to go fight in a war or wait tables at a busy Manhattan restaurant — but it was still a lot harder than napping.

The easy way would’ve paid off in the short term. Immediate pleasure-spike.

The hard way paid off bigger in the end.

The easy way is the short con. The hard way is the long con.

The long con almost always pays out better.

I mean, okay, this isn’t universally true. If one choice is, “Walk over to that picnic table and eat a delicious slice of pie,” and the other harder choice is, “Enter that bouncy castle over there, the one full of hunger-mad raccoons,” yes, granted, the easier choice is truly the wiser one. Picnic Pie over Raccoon Injury any day of the week.

Certainly it’s worth looking at if the harder choice is also the smarter choice.

But in general, y’know, it’s always worth taking the time to make that assessment.

Sometimes the short walk will get you there faster. But sometimes the longer walk is the prettier, more interesting walk — and it’s the one where you have more time to think, get more exercise, see new things. Like two Yetis making love on a hammock made of human skin.

Park close to a store — easy to head inside. Park far away — longer walk. Seems dumb. Isn’t dumb. Again: more exercise. More blood flow. Better chance of seeing something funny happen in the lot, too, like a couple seagulls fighting a preschooler over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’ve never seen that. But I want to see that. I bet that’s amazing.

Fast food is easy. Home cooking is hard. But, y’know, about a thousand bazillionty times better. For you, for your family, for the Pink Slimecubes that must be destroyed in the dungeons beneath Ronald McDonald’s clown-vomit murder factory.

Art is like this, too.

It’s harder just not to create art than it is to actually sit down or stand there and commit. It’s easier to think about creating something, or to talk about creating something, than it is to actually will yourself to that act — a very difficult, transitional, sacrificial act. It’s easier to think about stories or dream stories or imagine your published stories than it is to actually carve them letter by letter across a piece of paper. The thing about the easy way, though — the thing that’s seductive — is that it’s a known quantity. We know what we get out of it. We’ll get it quickly and without complication and likely with great (if momentary) pleasure. The hard way is a question mark bolted to an iron door. The door will be hard to open and the path beyond it, potentially treacherous. Its reward is unknown, uncertain, and seems counter to what we really want in the first place. You’re tired? Nap! Ta-da! Why would you run when you’re tired? How dumb are you?

Except, it’s not dumb. It pays off.

Sometimes, you do have to take the easy way. Sometimes, you really need a nap, or a cookie, or a day off from whatever it is you’re doing. That’s okay. You can push too hard. Bend too far and you can break. But just the same — sometimes you really have to push.

So, push.




Fuck it.

Hell with the easy way. Dying is the easy way. Living is the hard way.

So keep going.

Keep running.

Keep living.

Keep making cool stuff.

[insert NIKE swoosh logo here]

42 responses to “We Can Do This The Easy Way Or The Hard Way”

  1. “Picnic Pie over Raccoon Injury any day of the week.” That right there is a total FTW type sentence!

    I will admit that I do occasionally take afternoon naps but only if I really REALLY cannot keep my eyes open and I need a shot of shut-eye. My concentration levels usually go way up after that.

    The downside is that if I take a nap, then I end up being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all the way to one in the morning.

    Or maybe that isn’t a downside…

  2. I always hit that wall in the afternoon because I’m an early-morning writer. When you get up at 5:30, by 2 in the afternoon you’re pretty much ready for dinner and bed. But I exercise instead – swim, long walk with the dog, whatever. No matter what you feel like before you go, you ALWAYS feel better afterwards. In particular, long walk = great ideas. I don’t know why, but there it is.

  3. Really awesome pep-talk! I laughed over it all the way through, mainly because I could SO identify with everything you said. My lonely elliptical has been calling to me and my fitbit report was not great this week. I’ve been allowing NaNoWriMo to keep me parked at the computer and forsaking my regular routines. I’ll reconsider. Thanks.

  4. Sometimes you really do need a power nap to clean the slate and reconnect to your subconscious. I run on my elliptical everyday thinking, ‘Fat, sedentary writer! If your ass gets any bigger you will not be able to fit in you desk chair!’ I have epiphanies during my ‘run,’ but when I over exercise it releases stress hormones that make a normal person act like a caged tiger on meth.

    It’s all about balance, folks. Exercise is great for oxygenating the brain, but too much builds up toxins. Sometimes the nap is what you need.

    But Chuck’s point is valid, nonetheless. Push through your slackerry. The path of most resistance is usually a sign of where you should be going. And if you opt for napping, try binaural beats.

  5. I get some great ideas, especially when exercising, amazing ideas. Those neurotransmitters sure do kick in when you’re pumping them with oxygen, However, the hard bit is writing them all down in an ingenious and whimsical way. Still working on that bit.

  6. I’ve come up with a good power nap/ exercise schedule and it’s worked for me, hippy. 30 minutes of stationary bike in the morning. Work the rent job for 9 hours and come home, have dinner and power nap. Upon waking, drink a big glass off water an maybe a few pieces of fruit and I have 1-2 hours of creative time.

  7. Buying into the long con is hard. It takes practice and vigilance, but after awhile it just becomes habit and . . . well, you just do it. Even on those days where you’re tired and nap time is calling your name, you just know what you have to run, or hop on the elliptical, or whatever it is you do because it’s become an expected, routine part of your day. And you come to learn and embrace a few things:

    1. To be happy, you have to do it. Not doing it makes you miserable.

    2. To properly function, you have to do it. Not doing it costs you in other areas. Productivity, brain function, energy, general motivation, your sense of self worth.

    3. To remain a nice, polite person, you have to do it. Not doing it makes you a crabby bastard, kind of like before that first cup of coffee in the morning.

    The short con will leave you with regrets. And regret is permanent. You can’t undo it, but you can undo progress, so you have to keep at it, you have to sustain your effort. But we’re basically talking about survival here. To survive you can’t take a day off, you can’t slack, you can’t continuously take the easy road. To do so is to die, maybe not literally, but at least existentially, spiritually.

    So, like Chuck said, fuck inertia. Momentum creates momentum. You have to keep moving forward. But you’ll never regret moving forward, will never regret going for that run, devoting that hour to writing, or doing that thing that you know deep down to be the right thing (versus the simple, easy, convenient thing). The thing that moves you forward, not laterally. One more time: fuck inertia. Momentum creates momentum.

    Thanks for inspiring us to keep moving forward, Chuck.

  8. Have to say that this entry made me acutely aware of that warm, fuzzy, dark place inside my head. The one that feels soooooo good to visit

    Soooooo sleepy.


  9. I’m sitting here regretting my bellyfull of chili con queso and fried tortilla chips. Ugh. That was so not necessary. I have a fridge stocked with fresh food, but someone surprised me with Mexican takeout earlier today and I decided tonight was as good a night as any to be disgusting.

    I walked around Walmart half-aimlessly for about 40 minutes today, does that count as a workout? Hey, I was pushing a cart.

    I get seriously sleepy as well during the early afternoon. I figure after all my years of working shitty jobs and taking care of multiple babies/preschoolers and therefore not having the privilege to have a nap… that maybe I’ve earned it. That’s probably a little self-defeating. But what if you 1)meet your deadline 2)do a walk or workout and 3)still have time for a short nap? Maybe we can have our queso and eat it, too. Except not before bed. Unless you have a wedge pillow, then maybe.

  10. Definitely nothing wrong with a nap and any sleep expert will tell you to have one if you need it. And exercise nuts will also tell you that getting up and moving will help the oxygen get back into your body and get you moving.

    It’s up to you what you do, alternate every day, do the same thing, whatever you want is up to you. I’m a lover of the nap when particularly overtired, especially in summer when the heat sucks your energy and you can’t be bothered exercising anyway.

  11. My preference is to do both. Usually the workout first, and the nap later, after the endorphin high fades. When I swim, that’s about three minutes after I get home. Man, swimming makes me tired! But if (like me) a nap is part of how you manage sleep (ie not enough hours in the night), then take the nap. AND go for a run. Keep them both short and you can do it. Set a timer on the nap (for me, at least, runs are self-limiting :p )

  12. I just sleep until like 12 or 1 each day, and then stay up late writing. I write best at night, usually around 1am. But, I’m an extreme night person. I literally can’t function in the morning. Not so much of a napper, tho. But I get what you’re saying. Hard is hard because it’s what gives you the best results. It’s true in really all aspects of life.

  13. One of the best positive rants of all time! All it was lacking was a Rocky soundtrack. A marvellous manifesto! What a writer! If it’s the beginning of a new pro nap religion – sign me up!

  14. I hate napping. Feels like a waste of time. That’s my deal though, not a judgement on anyone else. I wake up early, sometimes before 3 AM. I’m in bed by 7 PM. I write the first half of the day, play with my kids or watch a movie or whatever as I get closer to my personal midnight. My schedule is pretty regimented. It works for me.

  15. If a.) long nap messes you up more than a short one; b.) you have medical insurance, and c:) you have never been tested for sleep apnea before, then you may want to get tested for sleep apnea. I sleep with one of the machines and masks for sleep apnea treatment, and it makes a colossal difference in how much sleep I need. Before I got the mask I needed almost two more hours of sleep per night than I do now, and I still had poorer concentration than I do today.

    That said, even with my sleep apnea treatment I still want a lot more sleep in grey weather and with winter early sunsets than I do in summer. If my family wasn’t in the northern half of the US, I would move to Florida.

  16. Whelp, read the bit about the Yetis and promptly spit diet coke all over my keyboard at work. Note to self: no liquids while reading Chuck’s blog.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down without any particular strong inspiration, and just started writing or drawing and after awhile, it actually tuned into something I was proud of, something that got me excited. I think folks spend too much time waiting for that glorious vision to hit them–BAM!–completely fleshed out and in it’s final glorious form so that they can get excited about it and THEN create it. They don’t know that the most beautiful sight in the world is a floor strewn with lego bricks and potentiality. (As long as it’s not the middle of the night and you’re trying to get to the bathroom. Then it’s just hell and a lot of swearing.)

    Also, I once saw two girls in a Lowe’s parking lot having a sword fight with a couple of toilet plungers. Oh wait, that was me and my friend. Either way, the few folks who had parked towards the back of the lot got an eyeful, that’s for sure.

  17. *air high-fives an invisible Wendig*

    This is a great post. I remember (last year?) when you made a post about how you were starting to run and went ten minutes and you were full of huffing and puffing. Now you crank out three miles while watching batman. Well done, man. You’ve come a long way and that is awesome.

    • Well, to be fair, running on the elliptical is waaaaay different than actually running. I don’t know that I’ve managed much further than two miles on the actual road — but still, it’s something!

  18. I’ve come to believe in a certain type of push, it’s two steps forward and one step back. Okay, more of a cha-cha, but it still makes progress, as long as you don’t give up. Felt like crap last night but I woke up this morning feeling better than I would have without the last two day push and my brain had, overnight, worked out a plot twist I didn’t consciously see coming. You can think you aren’t making any headway but if you just keep pushing at the boulder, you may suddenly feel it give an inch and, on a good day, maybe a foot.

  19. I guess that goes for the snooze button too, hey? Oh well, you make a very good point. I cannot count how many times I’ve fought the nap-demons over the exercise gods, or the writing gods, or, pretty much anything. Thanks for this!

  20. Give yourself a break, Chuck. Nap, walk, run, breathe, garden, knit, play – in fact do anything that isnt writing – or probably isn’t in front of your computer. Try setting the colour on your computer screen to more yellow. Most are set to more blue… and the scientists are saying this blue overstimulates the brain. No wonder we are wearing ourselves out.
    Oh, do yoga, too…

  21. I work from home, even in my real job, and I hit that wall about the same time. I need to take your advice and start doing something exercise-wise, because even though I’m incredibly tired, I’ve never been a napper so I just STAY miserably tired. If I nap, I wake up disoriented, sick and even more tired than I was before. Not a good thing for me, so usually I just suffer. I’m going to shake things up. Thanks, Chuck.

  22. I also needed the DO THE THING message today.

    I’ve hit this horrible wall with this new book after some things have happened this year, and I’m in that place of absolute and total terror. New project is the most ambitious, riskiest fucking thing I’ve ever done, and it’s also massive. And there’s a lot hinging on it. And my whole brain is in a complete panic because I’ve hit that wall of HOLY SHIT I CANNOT DO THIS IT’S GONNA SUCK AND PEOPLE ARE EXPECTING IT NOT TO SUCK.

    So I’ve stuffed some wool into my ears, wrapped my head in fleece, and have stuck my head into the sand this week.


    I need to yank my head out and just do the goddamn thing already.

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