In my tenure in this profession it is sad how many truly talented writers I’ve seen who never made it. The reason? Talent is useless without mental toughness. It takes true grit to make it in this business.
Too many writers are simply not going to make it because they don’t have the sticking power. And while this is an easy observation to make, I am here to do more than point out the obvious. I’m here to give some practical ways to improve psychological toughness, get better at being disciplined, and eat goals and deadlines for breakfast (they have ZERO calories, btw).
Relax and enjoy the holidays. Refueling is vital. Bookmark this. Let it soak in and then be ready to act come January 1st. These tips work for anything you want to accomplish, btw.
Seven Tips for True Grit
No really and don’t roll your eyes at me 😛 . Set them. I know you hear this all the time but it’s true. Write them down and make them real. How can you map a course if you don’t know were you are going?
When I was in sales we had a saying, Fail to plan. Plan to fail.
If you have a goal to eventually replace that day job with being a full-time writer? Write it down and then plan your escape. Studies have shown that we’re far more likely to reach goals once we have written them down and that isn’t shocking.
To write them down we have to name them, claim them and define them. We take them out of the “nebulous gray.” It is far easier to reach for concrete benchmarks than existentialism.
Forget Realistic—Realistic is For Wimps
Most of us underestimate what we can accomplish. When you write your goal, rewrite it just a little bigger. What’s the worse that can happen? You accomplish more than you thought you could?
Years ago I did this. I wrote down, In 2011 I am going to get an agent. Then I crossed it out and wrote In 2011 I am going to sign with one of the best agents in NYC.
See, we never know what is going to happen or what chain of events might open what door. In early 2011, I wrote a little book called Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. I was still an unknown and this was also during the days that most people were unconvinced social media was fundamental shift in global civilization we all NOW know it to be.
When I wrote the book, I needed blurbs, so I made up a Hail Mary List. These were authors who I loved, who were SO BIG I doubted my e-mail would ever even get through.
On that Hail Mary List was NYTBSA James Rollins. Not only did I get through, he’d actually read my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and was MY FAN *falls over dead*. He asked if it would be okay of he sent my book to HIS agent…who later that year signed me (who happened to be one of THE biggest agents in NYC). I not only got a blurb and a friend, I got an agent.
What if I’d limited my goal?
Visualize Process NOT Fantasy
A critical mistake I made when I first decided to become a writer was I spent far too much time “visualizing” the success. In my head I dreamed of sales, wealth, book tours and being able to travel the world to research and people lined out the door to meet me and seeing stacks of displays of my books.
Nothing per se wrong with that but just that is fantasy and can be unhealthy.
To reach any big dream, we must fall in love with the process.
I am up almost every morning at 4:15 a.m. That seriously sucked in the beginning. I had to learn to fall in love with it. Blogging? SUCKED for the first 2 years. It was so hard week after week, month after month writing thousands of words to entertain CheapXanaxANDYoungCoeds.com.
But I knew I was honing my skills. I was learning to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I was training myself to eat deadlines for breakfast. I was training out my perfectionism that held onto things instead of shipping. I was opening myself to public criticism, gaining fans, feedback and thicker skin.
Through a lot of really humbling lessons, I had to fall in love with all of it, not just the fantasy of what “one day” might be. Writers’ groups are all filled with people who never have pages to read, who never finish what they start. They don’t blog, don’t build a platform, but all have dreams that HBO will be replacing Game of Thrones with their series.
Nothing wrong with that goal, btw. Just don’t leave it at that. Do the WORK.
To the Pain—Set Accountability
In the New Year we all have goals. Maybe you want to finish the novel by a certain day or query by a certain day or publish by a certain day. I love pleasure but pain is good for the soul. Put some stakes on it. Go purchase something you really want. Preferably something a close friend (ideally a mean friend) also wants.
Maybe it is a $50 gift card. Maybe a new gaming system, spa package, or 90 minute massage. Whatever.
Put it in the pot and then, if you make your goal by the date it’s yours, if not? It goes to your accountability partner. Yes, rewards and treats are all fabulous but they are a tad too easy.
Often we are far more motivated when it will cost us something. The more it costs us, the more motivated we are to accomplish said goal.
So if a loved one gives you a fat gift card for Christmas, maybe throw that in the Goal Pot and take a gamble for a greater ROI. Use that $100 Amazon card for cool stuff you want to reward yourself with, but also as fuel to finish all revisions by February 15th 😉 .
Ditch Negative People, Whiners & Complainers
Seriously. You wouldn’t let someone bring their dog in your house and let it crap on your floor, would you? Yes, if someone brings a pet over and once in a while there is an oops? OKAY. But that is very different than someone bringing over their dog and using your living room as a kennel floor.
So why let people crap non-stop in your head? Sorry for the gross image but that’s what that is. Whining and complaining do nothing but increase stress levels which shrinks the size of the hippocampus leading to us being progressively more stupid.
Yes, science has proven that hanging out with whiners makes us stupid.
Everyone has a bad day and that isn’t what I’m talking about. Give them 60 seconds and then enough. Start talking about solutions. People who are chronically negative or addicted to whining? Bye.
I’ve learned to determine the ASKHOLES in my life and get rid of them. You know what an askhole is? That is a person who is always in a crisis, who always needs advice and after they have derailed your life and gotten your advice? Does whatever the hell stupid thing they are going to do anyway…often leading to the next crisis that you WARNED them would happen.
Turn them loose.
Surround Yourself With Accountability & Excellence
We are who we hang around. Character is contagious. When I was new as a writer I didn’t understand how important this was. I thought I could fight the inertia of mediocrity with sheer willpower. I also thought that if I was part of a group of people who said they wanted to be writers, well then they wanted to be writers. Right?
Actions speak louder than words.
Writers write. Not all critique groups and writing groups are good for you. If you want to join a writing group, look to how many people in the group are published, multi-published, awarded, writing full-time, blogging, etc. If it’s just a bunch of people who meet and have coffee and talk about writing? Your time is better spent at home writing. Hanging out with that garbage is like hanging around radioactive material and thinking you are fine.
Negativity and mediocrity are invisible particles that punch your will and your dreams full of tiny holes until they collapse and die. Yes, you can try to ward it off and buffer from it but the best course of action? Stop growing
strawberries writing dreams at Chernobyl crappy writing groups.
One of the things I’ve worked hard to do is to make myself available on W.A.N.A.Tribe. Back in November during Nanowrimo I introduced writing sprints in the Main Room IM field.
I rallied everyone at 8:45 a.m. CST and we did as many as 5 sprints. 30 minutes per sprint. Write as much as you could. Report back the numbers. Then we took a break and came back at 3:30 p.m. CST and did more sprints.
Everyone who participated finished Nano. I finished in 16 days WITH the flu while blogging.
Once Nano ended, I changed the plan. We now still meet every morning at 8:45 a.m. CST and we do what I call Blackouts. 40 minutes to do as much work as you can then report back to the group what you accomplished.
Writers now get to see MY operational tempo, since I’m almost always leading the team. We do as many as five Blackouts before lunchtime. Then, we rally back at 3:30 after I get Spawn for more Blackouts. I generally do about 3 more.
Writers get to see what I accomplish in that 40 minute block. What is my word count? How much did I get edited? How many Blackout sessions did it take to get my blog written and posted?
This doesn’t mean people need to copy me, but I tell you, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY when social media peeled back the curtain and I started seeing how authors I admired worked and got so much accomplished.
Also, this current system offers accountability and makes all of us push harder. There is a level of healthy competition and since we are a TEAM, it is far harder for me to say, “Eh, I think I will take today off.”
Up Your Operational Tempo
Believe it or not, I am not the strongest member of my team, merely the best looking #ITSACURSE. There are writers on our Blackout Team who blow ME away. Always look to surround yourself with people stronger than yourself and don’t buy your own excuses.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
You may not be able to do this on your own. You may lack the discipline so come over to W.A.N.A.Tribe and join out Blackouts. Sometimes, you need guidance from a pro. Take one of the classes listed below. Or, feel free to e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com. I do consulting for social media, blogging and branding, but I also can help with your books. Instead of wasting another year revising or rewriting, a small investment in time with me might save you months or years of work.
This job is never easy, but it is always AWESOME.
What are your thoughts? Do you see some suggestions here that might improve your odds of reaching your goals? Do you try to go it alone too much? Do you give negative people too much permission to crap in your life? Do you think you might go a tad too easy on yourself? I hope to see y’all over at W.A.N.A. Tribe! No excuses this year that you have no system of support 😛 .
Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors.
Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.
Enough of that…
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
More awesome! Thank you for toughing out blog writing. Thank you for terrific posts. Sharing this!
One of the ways I keep my writing on schedule is by utilizing e-publishers pre-order feature (BTW, make sure you have your cover and manuscript totally polished and submitted at least 2 weeks prior to your launch date). Perhaps it is just me, but I find the thought of a semi-polished draft being made public exceedingly motivating, so I make sure all edits are done on time.
Fire Island, which is #3 of the Chatterre Trilogy will launch in 2 days and The Vi-Purrs, which is part of Xander’s Sea Purrtector Files will launch 3-17-16. The rough draft of that is done and editing begins in January, as does the rough draft of the next book.
I’ve heard that the ones who succeed are the ones who keep going. So, I keep going 🙂
Edison said ‘I have not failed I have simply found 10,000 ways that do not work’- Keep going -Keep on keepin’ on’
I’m part of a writing group that does timed writing sessions. We do okay but your version is much more badass. It reminds me of what we can accomplish with our time if we focus better!
I SOOOO needed this post today – thanks for the motivation, Kristen!
Reblogged this on A Writing Mama's Journal and commented:
Another fantastic post by Kristen Lamb. What she writes has been accurate in my life, as an engineer, a marketing professional AND now as a writer. Write down your goals, believe in them, work for them and THEY WILL HAPPEN. My latest example is Scary Mommy. I wrote down at the beginning of summer that I wanted to write for Scary Mommy (a large parenting website – over 1.4 million followers.) After SIX rejections, they accepted my 7th submission. Last week, they published my second article. So dream big, and work hard. You can do it!!!!
Congratulations! Always good to read when one of us makes it.
Thank you! I don’t know if I would say that I’ve “made it,” but I appreciate your comment! I still have A LOT to learn, but I’m trying. I wish you luck on your writer’s journey too! 🙂
Here’s a quote that can work for writers with a little adaptation; it’s from the film ‘Things to Come’ based on H G Well’s Book ‘Shape of Things To Come’
“But for Man, no rest and no ending. He must go on, conquest beyond conquest. First this little planet with its winds and ways, and then all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him and at last out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning.”
Thanks for your wishes.
Best wishes for your journey.
Thanks a lot for this post! Maybe 2016 is the year to finally get published, I’ll try to find my true grit!
Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
Fantastic Post for Writers. Read the Whole Thing.
Signed up for your branding class. Still owe you pages. I want to be a jedi like you but also have illness stuff that takes time when I have to deal with it, but I DON’T want to be a whiner. Would like to join the WANA tribe sprints. I was doing some sprints on a Facebook group that helped too until I got sick again. So what I want is to kick ass on my good days and the good times during all my days. So, will plan the WANA. I agree about writing groups and never knowing and the members never seemed to understand what you are saying but I totally agree. For now, surrounded by stronger writers would be awesome. Writing down my goals is first. So. I will write down my goals today.
The good thing about the Blackout sessions is they aren’t JUST writing sprints. They can be ANYTHING related to what you do as a writer. So you can spend the 40 doing your branding homework, brainstorming blog ideas, planning your schedule, writing your goals, whatever. The point of the Blackout is to train FOCUS.
Sounds good. I spent the other sprints submitting like a demon so done with that for the moment and ready for writing. Wrote my goals!
Yes indeed – what a great kick in the pants! I usually get NaNo done in 12-14 days – 4 novels sitting under my bed as we speak, partially edited. No problem with writing, fast, large quantities. But then there’s the revisions/rewriting drafts, which sit there like lumps. And why did this scene happen? that? what’s their biggest fears? Sigh – so much more work to do. I’ve set new goals and reached out to several excellent writers for help. Will see how I can incorporate WANA into my days as well. I also am passionate about genealogy research, which takes half my time… Pulled in two directions some days.
Celia, come to the WANATribe and join the Blackouts. It will force you to do the un-fun stuff.
You. Are. Awesome! Thanks. That was way more than a pep talk!!!
Kristen, this is a great Blog! I have read every word, hanging on like someone falling from a cliff.
I have written and written BOOKS and queries but…not yet, they say. How could anyone read blogs like yours and not be immediately published?
James M. Copeland
Hey Bria….. I thought you might like this Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone
Yes! My plan for 2016 is to be a lot more professional; more disciplined; more organized. More productive 🙂 And yes, I am planning to turn those into concrete goals once the annual headless-chicken-time ends and I have a week to think clearly.
Kristen, thank you for another ultra-inspiring post! I’m trying to make myself grittier every day 🙂 The Blackout Sprints have been a BIG help to me. I was completely stalled when I started them and am now plowing ahead, nearing the end of my novel. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to run them and inspire the WANAs and all your readers and students. You rock!
Well written, and certainly applicable to most areas of life!
Incidentally, I covered the topic of GRIT in an article last week from a different perspective. To prove that I’m not glomming onto your popularity (or whatever you young kids call that technique) I am not including a link.
P.S. Since I started sticking with red wine and IPA, I haven’t experienced a blackout. Whew!
Feel free to come back and give me a link. I’d like to check it out :D.
Yikes. Sorry I didn’t see this sooner, Kristen. OK, here is the article I wrote on GRIT. Thanks! https://stevesuggests.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/heres-a-story-about-why-grit-is-good/
Kristen, I love you! Your incredible generosity when it comes to sharing your successes and failures never fails to inspire. We couldn’t be more different when it comes to social and political realities (I’m a bleeding heart liberal who wants all her Muslim students to become citizens and I hate the NRA), but I truly appreciate what you are trying to do. You rock! Rock on. Helia
LOL. Well it takes all kinds and thank you 😀 .
I’ve experienced the result of visualizing fantasy rather than process. I used to work with a co-writer who spent a lot of time living in the fantasy. When he talked about the book, he’d already had it out and published in his mind, and it was a best seller he was happily marketing (being a marketer). He managed to disconnect the writing part from the process, and then he ran into big time trouble when reality showed itself.
As we drew closer to submitting it, utter fear took him over. He was terrified of being published, maybe because he’d set the bar so high that it was possible he would fail. He started dragging his feet on the process, insisting that we needed to revise Chapter 1 one more time because “something was wrong with it.” I’d say “Fair enough. What’s wrong?” But he couldn’t tell me, though he kept trying to revise it with the same vague reasons. I kept pressing on because the story was done, and we needed to get it out. Tweaking it wasn’t going to make it perfect, and that’s all he wanted to do was change this word and that word. But the more I pressed, the more he dug his feet in. Then he turned nasty–picking fights over anything and everything. I was suddenly on the business end of him yelling at me over nothing and I’m going “What the heck happened?” We ended up breaking up while the book was in submission, and I had to walk away from the completed book.
(No need to put me in the drawing. I don’t need the critique.)
Been there with critique group partners *fist bump*
You are doing a great service to writers everywhere. Keep up the good work
You are such an inspiration to me. Thx for this awesome post.
Just read Kristen’s blog for the first time. I feel like I just found gold!
Just spent an hour trying to sign up for wana. it wont take any picture I try to upload and wont let you complete a membership join (move forward) without it. I finally managed a pending, using a Yahoo account I just made without a pic. So my membership is pending, my yahoo says I live in Los Angeles ( I am East Coast) and I have no picture. Hopefully it will get approved anyway and I can figure out the pic problem. I tried everything!
I approved you fine. Let me know if you have any more issues.
I really enjoyed this article. I decided to save it in its own folder. 🙂
Also, I wanted you to know that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I hope you do not mind. I have enclosed the link below, so you can find the post easier.
Btw: when a person is nominated for this award, that means they won it. Thanks to a blogging friend of mine, I understood this process. Lol
Kristen, I’ve been wallowing in self-pity, making excuses and not writing since my mom entered Hospice care. As of today, I’m setting goals and writing again. I’ll no longer allow myself to make lame excuses. Thank You for your inspiration. This post was just what I needed!
My grandmother has been declining with Alzheimer’s so been there done that *fist bump* It is easy to lose yourself, but that is why it is SO important that WE ARE NOT ALONE. Y’all were here to give me a hand and now I am here for you guys 😉 .
Wow! So many fabulous tips for getting down and getting it done, not to mention motivational. I’ll definitely be sharing your news letter with my literary buddies.
Writing sprints/Blackouts=Get shit done. Hoping to get some mornings in this week if my appliances can carry on as usual, but if not…see you in the afternoon!
Thank you so much for this one, Kristen! Very timely. I have been told in countless ways to set goals for my life and haven’t really done it or stuck to it when I did. I think your concrete examples really help to clarify what a goal is. I have been writing the same chapter book/MG for I don’t know how many years, and I’m still NOT QUITE DONE. I need to really knuckle down like you said and get tenacious if I’m going to really achieve anything as a writer. Thanks for your motivation and humour and team spirit! I try to emulate you by being supportive to all my peeps, but I realize I have been neglecting to support myself!
That spells it out nicely. True of any business and any over achiever’s individual successes. What pop psychology doesn’t tell you is that not everyone is capable of doing or living that mind set. It’s a personality type thing, innate to some, others can mimic it to a point, but the average sheep won’t stop grazing long enough to get very far. Personal drive is hard to manufacture.
VERY true. I don’t like it when self-help gurus say, “ANYONE can do this!” I guess in theory that is true but yeah. In application? Not so much.
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
Here are Kristen Lamb’s 7 ways to get true grit (if you don’t have it already). What a fantastic blog this lady has! There’s so much to learn from her.
Reblogged this on Emily Arden, author and commented:
We need a lot of grit in this business (and the ability to ward off the nay-sayers / people who will completely demotivate us). Check out this challenging post from Kristen Lamb.
yay! for at least the last 2 days I’ve met my daily writing goal! Thanks for the inspiration!!
This is brilliant and as I am punching a bit above my weight professionally so reassuring -I love the bit about falling in love with the process, that allows me to succeed even if we divert the course! And it does all come down to grit! Thanks, as always, and have a lovely Christmas! Not one for my cancer poems blog but I will certainly share professionally 🙂
Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
Awesome advice and seven tips on setting goals and sticking with it!