One of the most difficult aspects of living a successful life is that often you must go against the norm and the mass of people’s opinions about the way you should live. There is a strong power in society trying to pull you into the 95% of people who are not capable of major, sustained change.
~Bob Mayer, Who Dares Wins
I have been richly blessed to call a lot of talented authors and individuals my friend. Yet, the largest reason I choose to use a lot of Bob Mayer’s materials in this blog is that so much of his insight is focused on the dynamics of success. In fact, on a personal note, I saw the greatest amount of change in my own attitudes and approach toward my profession only AFTER befriending Bob at a conference in Oklahoma. Why? I had been approaching my craft and my attitude about success in general as two separate entities, blissfully unaware there was no separating the two.
We are just now entering National Novel Writing Month, a month that challenges individuals to toss all other obligations on the back burner and dive into writing that novel they’ve always dreamed about. Yet, like any other month, week, day dedicated to major change—National Physical Fitness Month (May), National No Smoking Day, the vile first week of January (New Year’s Resolutions anyone?)—only a handful will ever realize success. In fact, statistically, the number of the successful will peak at about 5%…across the board. Whether one is writing a novel, losing ten pounds, cutting up credit cards, or vowing to finally have organized closets makes no difference.
Why is this?
I believe that, for the most part, most of us dive into major change without doing any of the proper preparation. We are like newbie farmers who walk into a field and throw out seed before we have readied the land.
Our 5%er sisters and brothers manage to break free of the bell curve’s massive gravitational pull mainly because they prepared ahead of time to be confronted with challenges, while the rest of us somehow, year after year, continue to think that the Thin-Thigh Fairy or the Rock Hard Abs Fairy will bless us with success if only our intentions are pure enough. Yes, bad news is signing up for that gym membership is NOT enough…we actually have to go….and exercise.
Writing is no different. I have written several blogs about how writing is a profession that lends itself to not being taken seriously (even by those of us who make a living doing it). One will often hear even seasoned authors say how they write so they can avoid getting a “real job” (for more on this refer to my blog “Formula for Disaster Meets the Recipe for Success–Part II” http://bit.ly/3uaO3c ). Many of us find dealing with friends and family to be an uphill battle, the apparent trade-off for loving what we do. If we love writing, it CAN’T be WORK! MUST be a hobby. Most of us can expect to have to negotiate with friends, family, and children for quiet time to work. We can expect rolling eyes, huffing, and general negativity because our little “hobby” is different from the norm. As Bob always says, “It is NOT normal to sit alone in front of a computer and write 100,000 words.” Face it…we are breaking free from the norm and daring to be different.
That scares people.
Writing will be treated like all other endeavors that separate us from the pack. And if you don’t believe me? Go on a diet and see how many loved ones offer to feed you something chocolate.
So this separation anxiety is only the first major challenge most writers will face this month while pounding away at the keyboard, slaving over their opus in order to meet the deadline. I think that many will begin this month believing that the writing itself will present the biggest challenge. What many won’t expect (unless they are clever enough to read this blog :)) are all the inner demons that will appear as if summoned. The good news, though, is that outsiders only have the power we give them.
I have a lot of respect for what Bob is doing with his Warrior Writer Workshops. I think that his teachings make a HUGE difference in changing that 5% rule of thumb. Why? Because so many of us, as I said earlier, try to sow the seeds of success in an unprepared field…then we are left frustrated and disillusioned when the seeds die or are eaten by crows (the other 95%).
Warrior Writer, based on Bob’s Who Dares Wins, is a way of preparing the earth, so to speak. Unless we understand our relationship to a habit, we are powerless to change it. For instance, unless we understand what food, smoking, alcohol, procrastination, etc. represents to us (friend, comfort, way of dealing with boredom, escape) we cannot hope to substitute an unhealthy lifestyle of binge eating, chain smoking, drinking, etc. with a healthy lifestyle of discipline.
Similarly, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to writing. Warrior Writer helps us to look inside and locate the internal self-destruct buttons, so we are less likely to fall back into the mundane habits of the “everyone else.” We are better prepared to put down boundaries and stick to them. We are far better armed to make good decisions and then plan ways of reaching a successful outcome.
Farmers work first and play later. They plan. They prepare for the worst and hope for the best, all the while staying fixed on the ultimate goal…harvest. Farmers understand that it is no one great action, but a collection of small everyday habits that leads to success. Writers have to do the same.
Farmers do more than just plant the crop. There are a lot of activities that lend to a successful harvest, and writing a novel is no different. Farmers understand weather patterns. Successful writers understand there are times of the day more conducive to being productive. Is that getting up an hour earlier than the rest of the family? Staying awake late at night? Farmers till out the weeds that can choke life from seedlings. Writers must do the same with our work (friends, Internet, social media). Limit or get rid of those activities that steal precious time and focus. Farmers fertilize the ground for the greatest reward. Yes, writers fertilize. When we aren’t writing, we can READ. Read books about the craft, books by those who were successful. Research. I am often amazed how even reading non-fiction can provide so much imagination to my fiction. Farmers also have the proper tools. The successful ones don’t tackle a hundred acres with a wheel barrow, a hoe and good intentions. They have the proper equipment. Writers need basics, too—a dictionary, thesaurus, and good craft reference guides, especially for new writers. In Warrior Writer Boot Camp, I recommend a basic reference library comprised of Bob Mayer’s Novel Writers Toolkit, Christopher Vogler’s Writer’s Journey, Les Edgerton’s Hooked, and Bullies, Bastards, & Bitches by Jessica Morrell.
I wish everyone the greatest success for this exciting month. With some forethought and planning, it is my dream that more than 5% can find their way to the pinnacle of achievement…finishing a novel. Most Americans say they want to write a novel…and most of them fail. Whether one is ever published or not there is something deeply satisfying about pushing back the chair and saying… “The End.”
Good luck and happy writing!
Until next time…
For more information about Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer Workshops, go to www.bobmayer.org
Also highly recommended, Bob Mayer’s Who Dares Wins—The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed (Simon & Schuster 2009) and the Novel Writers Toolkit.
Interestingly, after several months of research and outlining, I am starting on my new novel. Three days into November and I’m already at 10,000 words. More importantly, I’m very happy with the process. The opening of a book is so critical. It sets the characters for the rest of the book. I’m mixing fictional with historical characters and that is a particular challenge. I have to capture Ulysses S. Grant, Tecumseh Sherman, and others into my story and capture them at times of their lives when little has been written about them. It is indeed a challenge.