It’s only human to want a drive-thru breakthrough, a dream in a box, the winning lotto ticket to life. Yet, I posit instant success is about as healthy as instant rice (and just as suspicious).
To achieve anything remarkable, it’s critical to become an OUTLASTER (a term I learned from Craig Groeschel, who happens to have a fabulous leadership podcast, btw).
Dreamers are born, but Outlasters are forged 😉 .
I had years of honing this skill. Some of you may not know, but I dropped out of high school twice.
***Note: I am the reason for the current Texas truancy laws 😀 .
Returning to high school and graduating at 19 was seriously humbling. My GPA was so low, my classes (very literally) were one step above Special Ed. When I took my SAT, the scores were so bad, I thought they might check me for a pulse.
Super glad they gave me some points for spelling my name correctly.
After a year and a half of junior college I won an Air Force scholarship to TCU to become a doctor. Six months in, the school didn’t close when we had a bad ice storm and I slipped and fractured my back…losing my scholarship.
This was before the days when places were required to have handicap access, so for two semesters, I trudged up stairs on a cane and had to stand during all my classes because I couldn’t sit.
Not awkward at all.
It took me six years of working crap jobs, but I finished. Maybe not with the best grades, but I finished. In the years that followed, I drifted without purpose working sales and I got in a really bad habit of making way too many excuses and quitting when anything got too hard. It took yet another health disaster to show me my poor character in Technicolor and remind me to become a finisher.
Time in a Bottle
We all have heard the saying, ‘DaVinci had the same 7 days and 24 hours.’ I would actually make a different point. Folks like DaVinci, Mozart, Shakespeare actually had LESS time.
There was no electric lighting and pulling all-nighters was a good way to go blind by candlelight. Thus, I’d say the difference is that these artists lived intentionally.
We all want to know the secret to success. First of all, I am going to add a caveat. Success is a very personal thing. What is success for you isn’t success for me.
***Mine includes a secret lab, bouncy house and trebuchet.
Yet, study after study shows that people who write down their goals are far more likely to reach them.
Mission Impossible–> Mission I’m Possible
Mission statements help our subconscious guide us where we want to GO. A mission statement also helps us know what activities are a time-suck, time-waste, what can go, what needs to stay, what should be added, etc. All this helps us be proactive instead of reactive. We’re thinking, acting and deciding with intent.
Living intentionally requires we learn to be OUTLASTERS.
We can take craft classes, join a gym, type on the WIP, start a blog, but the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that those who make it KEPT GOING, even if it was just a tiny bit of effort daily.
Blogging & Writing
When I started blogging, I was THRILLED to have a hundred hits a day. Granted, most were spam bots, but I was in no position to be picky. At least CheapViagraBargainPrice cared enough to comment.
I so lick your blog. What brilliant words using you do. Must tell my brother.
If CheapViagra had not licked my blog…I very well may have given up.
Now, my blog gets an average of 1.1 million hits a month. My site grew from likely 100 visits from dedicated followers (actual humans) to my website a month to now almost 100,000. This did NOT happen overnight and there was a lot of ugly crying along the way.
Suffice to say, those who started blogging when I did have mostly dropped away. Blogging is crucial for a brand and selling books. It is the strongest and most resilient form of social media and yet?
Most people give up.
I’ve also noticed how many people in 2009 were super passionate about writing. They claimed they’d do ANYTHING to publish and write full-time. Now? Most are gone. New dreamers regularly fill the vacuum. But, how long will they last?
***Refer to The Real Odds of Author Success.
Here’s the thing. Starting is crucial, but also easy—okay, easier. It’s fresh and wonderful and emotional. There might even be all kinds of people to cheer you on.
But how will you fare when the new wears off and those who pledged undying support and loyalty move on to a new shiny because we weren’t an overnight success?
The key to making it in ANYTHING from writing to business to marriage to losing weight is to become an OUTLASTER.
Traits of an Outlaster
Outlasters have clear and achievable goals.
Notice I didn’t say realistic goals. Reach for the stars and we may hit the moon. BUT, my goal to be a NYTBSA is an achievable goal because I’m a writer. If I have a goal to become a professional NBA player? Last I checked short middle-aged women were not in high demand in the sport.
Outlasters write down goals and have CLEAR Mission Statements.
The Mission Statement keeps us focused. We learn where to say yes and where and when to say no.
If my goal is to become a NYTBSA in the next five years, I know it is unwise to volunteer for every church event, school event, and family drama need. It becomes clear that I need to set word count based off MY goals. My word count will be very different if I want to write ONE book a year versus THREE.
Outlasters understand the power of letting go.
Yes, Outlasters MUST hold on, hold on for LIFE! But to the right things.
Often letting go is more important than holding fast. This can involve letting go of hobbies, hangups and habits or even WIPs that just need to be put to bed. But the toughest? Letting go of people.
The best analogy I can think of for this is climbing Everest. If we want to climb Everest, there are teams of sherpas that guide you to the first base camp. As you go to each higher level, the team becomes incrementally smaller and this is necessary.
Not everyone in our life is meant for the summit. Some might even get us killed.
We will mourn people we need to let go of, but often letting go is a good thing. True friends believe in us even when all outside evidence says we are a failure. Anyone can claim to be our friend when life is all kittens and unicorns, but what about when everything goes horribly wrong? This is where true allies are revealed. We find them (and they reach for us) in the darkness.
Luck is fabulous and would LUV me some luck. But I still believe the harder I work, the luckier I get. This said, working smarter is key. Feel free to make all your clothes by hand, but running to Target for new t-shirts might be a better use of time if your goal is to be a pro writer instead of a clothing designer.
There are no shortcuts. We MUST endure. And endurance can be small. It can mean we are so ill we can’t see straight, but we post a couple things on Facebook or ask a friend to guest blog…then go back to sleep. It is the small deposits and investments that accumulate over time.
But we write that book, remove that debt, lose that weight little by little. That’s what endures. Fad diets and quick fixes don’t change our character. Just like eating well and exercise should be a lifestyle, being a writer is a WHOLE new way of living. It isn’t a hobby or a thing or our little fun…it is who we ARE. Writers WRITE.
Outlasters Understand the Long-Tail
If we look at life day by day we will get discouraged. It’s kind of like going back to the gym and then getting on the scale every hour to see what’s changed. Formula for a breakdown. Outlasters just keep writing, keep failing, keep learning, keep trying and they do it over and over and over and over.
Outlasters CANNOT Succeed Alone
Part of why I built and pay for W.A.N.A. Tribe (We Are Not Alone—W.A.N.A.) is that we are who we hang around. We’ve been running writing sprints in the main Chat for over three years, M-F from morning to night. Sure, it costs me money but I’m investing in my success and yours. We can enjoy a place free of ads, spammers, politics, drama, data mining, and distractions.
We are all about hard, focused WORK…with fun and play and goofing off in between the 40 minute sprints.
I view W.A.N.A.Tribe as my office, my workplace, my support team. Trust me, my tribe members will notice if I’m not showing up, if I’m not working.
The committed are there every day, and just knowing this is enough to dissolve excuses that might have derailed me otherwise. If they’re vested enough to show and work, then I need to get my @$$ in gear and honor them.
Find positive, professional, driven people and you WILL come up higher. Psychic vampires, whiners and complainers need to GO. Take inventory and seek out those you admire. Study them. Listen and learn from them. This is a tough road, but no one ever said we had to do it alone.
We all fall, bump our noses and bloody our knees. That is GOOD. Keep pressing. You got this 😉 .
I love hearing from you!
(And am not above bribery.)
What are your thoughts? Have you been struggling to keep pressing? Discouraged? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your goals? Have you taken time to even define your goals? Does life seem to stretch you like taffy? Are you overwhelmed? Why? Have you learned to set goals and boundaries? What did you do differently that make the BIG difference?
Or the small difference that eventually grew BIG?
What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for 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).
Heads Up! May 3rd 7-9 EST I’m teaching Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS.
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Want to know how to write a synopsis? I will teach you HOW. Synopses are vital for any form of publishing and this class will walk you through how to write a query and synopsis that sizzles!
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The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is two hours long, 90 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.
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For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:
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Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .
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Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN!
I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.
Of course you post this as I’m questioning my newest read (7 Habits by Stephen Covey). Mission Statements, goals, write things down, plan. Thank you for both the laughs and the perspective. I’m in the middle of a personal overhaul and this is a much needed message.
I cannot even with how much I love you for this post. You are simply amazing, and I appreciate your insights so much! I’ve been writing for a very long time. Had the dream come true with my very first completed novel, landing an agent and a 3-book NY deal–but let my inhibitions get the best of me, and quit. My best writing friend didn’t–and when I came back to the biz 9 years later, she was an NYT bestseller. There was the universe’s grand cosmic lesson for me. NEVER GIVE UP. Thank you for all this epic affirmation!
My motto is “never give up” and it’s stood me in good stead all my life. I’ve been writing for 7 years, make a decent income, love what I’m doing, but am still striving to achieve more. Loved this post and I agree 100%.
Thanks for this Kristen – you inspire me.
Oh all right, I’ll set goals! This is the third blog that told me I should be doing it. LOL
I’ve outlasted quite a few disappointments and hardships. Stubborn is not necessarily a character defect.
So true. Back about 2007, I broke up with my cowriter. I’d gotten into it because I had trouble with subplots and couldn’t produce a novel length work on my own. He wasn’t as promised and got fear of finishing so bad he became nasty. I had to walk away from a completed novel in submission to agents to keep my creative brain from getting damaged.
It was a low point for me because I realized I was back to square one. I hadn’t learned what was causing all my problems. I tried a novel, and it was a tortured mess. I was looking for help to figure out what was wrong with me, got offers to look at, and was ashamed to show anyone. I was a better writer than what I was producing and I didn’t know what was wrong. I was beginning to think that the only thing I could write were short stories. I ran across one of Holly Lisle’s courses, and the summary seemed to hit some right notes.
But she was an outliner, and it was apparent that really didn’t work for me. I still wrestled with subplots, and I could plainly see during the lesson how my book had turned from a story to a ten car pile up to a UFO taking out a city. And I still didn’t understand why. It took another five years at least to figure out that it was all the writing advice that assumes everyone outlines. When I tried to do beats, which is commonly recommended for pantsers, it added an additional layer of junk on the top of the story and took away from the natural creativity. When I figured out my ending in advance, I aimed at it and left out pretty much anything important. I had to dump all the writing advice I’d picked up so I could finish a book. And there was a lot else I had to learn because I spent years spinning my wheels on this one thing. Now I have three books out, and a forth in copy edits, and starting a new one. And I’ve gotten personal rejections from pro-rate magazines. Most people would have given up, far too soon. If it’s worth something, it’s also worth working hard to get to it.
I’ve been very discouraged this week – years of sustained effort seeming to result in few or diminishing returns – blogwise, bookwise…
I’m tempted to give up and just sit on the couch reading Agatha Christie, but while that course of action may not be unthinkable, it is undoable. I can’t bring myself to give up, but it’s hard to persevere when all your efforts seem to be for naught.
Mind you, probably some of this is just the peri/post-viral blues. Others don’t seem to think the situation is so bad.
Rest 😉 .
Good idea! I’ve curled up in a big chair with a pot of green tea and my copy of Rise of the Machines – see if that sparks any new ideas!
My main strategy is to ask myself “do you want to be a writer? Then start writing.”
Granted, there are other goals I’d like to achieve, like writing something people will pay to read, but one step at a time.
Sometimes just “keeping the faith” and “continuing” can prove quite the challenge.
I think another big challenge is distinguishing between “good/bad writing”, and “my own writing voice”.
There are definitely times where I can look at another blogger and see how their writing style seems to garner a more enthusiastic response, but there’s a fine line between learning from someone, and emulating them.
Life happens, and your story about your struggles and the things that could have derailed you and didn’t is inspiring and one that most of us who’ve lived a while can relate to. I self published my first fiction novel at an age the news media calls elderly. I have since finished a series of four Teen/YA SciFi novels and have a traditional publisher who picked them all up, along with my first non-fiction book. I’m a sprinter, having started all the fiction works during Nanowrimo, but I’m a great admirer of anyone who can be a disciplined every-day writer. It’s my goal to do that (achievable) on my way to being a NYTBSA and have my books become movies. Now to learn to market… Thank you for investing in people who feel compelled to write because that’s who we are.
With my writing, not my editing work, I am constantly amazed at my ability to be a snarky nay-sayer and prolific passive-aggressive creep to myself, and also to be clever as hell at undercutting my self-confidence.
I have plenty of positive feedback on my writing efforts, yet I still have a bulging folder called ‘story starts’ full of well-done material, but only consisting of 1-4 pages. [sigh] I can’t seem push beyond a certain point. It’s like they’ve done their duty by allowing me to feel the rush of creativity… and that’s it – the ‘therapy’ has served its purpose (I got to be ‘high’ on writing for awhile), and then it goes into the folder.
It’s a commitment issue…right? [lots of head nodding and bobbing]
Thanks for sharing, Kristen – I love that you can point to the things that make us squirm, and then defuse them.
I am the type of person who, when someone tells me I can’t, proves them wrong. I write down my goal, but more than that, I tell them to people. Accountability is key too. But even so, you can tell someone and do nothing about it, so setting the goal then breaking it down into steps is crucial too. This is why I follow you. 🙂
Thank you again for the pep talk. I love reading these “No seriously, get off you ass” posts. You not only tell us to get off our asses, you explain how and why and offer encouragement. I need you in my life.
The feeling is mutual. When I started blogging I had to rely on sheer force of will because I was speaking to a vacuum. It’s more rewarding now that I have actual people I can help, who in turn, help me 🙂 .
Amazing writing, I like it. Very interesting and brain-building, thinking, and life practical-challenging. Thanks for giving me chance to know of “OUTLASTERS”
I read this and I recall the “OUTLASTER- PING FU” as I luckily happen to read her inspiring book, and life story in “BEND, NOT BREAK”. But I wonder if I could be among those, due to the several reasons, mostly
Great post, Kristen! Way to keep us all inspired!
I’ve recently had to set up stronger boundaries around certain people in order to get more writing done. Between that and setting up daily quotas (which I have now doubled) I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere. Thanks for this inspirational post Kristen – you’ve given me more motivation to keep on going! 🙂
I’m so glad I found you. You inspire me every time I read your newsletter. I have often referred to myself as a ‘gunna’. I’m always ‘gunna’ do something or I have big ideas but never end up doing them. However, I’ve been quite determined with my writing. This year I’ve been putting in time and effort to make sure I finish (even though I doubt my abilities regularly). I have a very new website and I’ve only just begun to blog. Thank you Kirsten for the regular inspiration.