Sunday, March 24, 2013

True Grit

This past weekend the Washington Romance Writers hosted Bob Mayer for a two-day workshop. The first day focused on career – what questions to ask and actions to take in order to get moving along your desired writing path. The second day focused on what questions you’d be wise to ask yourself before typing “Chapter One” at the top of the page.

My friend, author Maggie Toussaint, did a fantastic job of summarizing Mr. Mayer’s talk when he presented to First Coast Romance Writers. Her March 18 blog can be read here. Rather than try to improve on Maggie’s recap, I’ve decided to pull out one element of the weekend’s presentation that resonated the most for me.


Grit, Mr. Mayer says, is the determining factor for success. Perseverance gets you farther than innate talent. Grit is the key ingredient that takes you from “I coulda been a contender” to “I did it.” Grit makes me think of the chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers where Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule. To become an expert in your field, you need to put in a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice. That is dedication. It’s determination. It’s a whole lot of grit.

Mayer shared the story of a young, small town violinist who wangles an opportunity to play before a visiting maestro. After the young man performs, the maestro’s only words are, “no fire.” Crushed, the budding violinist puts down his instrument, never to play again. Years later the maestro returns to town and the man reminds the master of his pronouncement. The maestro shrugs and says, “I always say ‘no fire.’” The lesson, of course, is that the ones with enough grit will double down and try harder while the ones who lack that essential element will accept the judgment of others and quit.

I’ve trained for and completed two marathons and lived through a major kitchen renovation. I know I have perseverance and determination. I’ve got grit. But I’ve never brought my grit to bear upon my writing career – and it’s high time I did. I’ve got goals I want to accomplish. I’d like to move into the realm of “I did it” – or more rightly – “I’m doing it.” No more contending. It’s time to show up, put the hours in, keep an eye on the prize and get to work.

How about you – do you have the grit to go after your writing dreams? What does grit look like for you? 


  1. My brother, who isn't a writer but has put up with me since childhood, often talks about The Twelve-Year Overnight Success. He works day in and day out with a variety of folks who've risen to the top of their respective fields. And how did they get to the top? They kept their noses to the grindstone long before anyone knew their names.

    That's grit. And as a result, they got where they were going and then some. Others thought they were an overnight success, but really they worked hard for years. See? Grit.

    By the way, my brother says I'll be due for a major success soon. I'm not sure he's right about that. But I'm working hard all the same!

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  3. Keely ~ You are so right! The weekend with Bob Mayer's WRW Write It Forward workshop was amazing. Chock full of great information. I'll be working through his advice for the next week or two--at least!

    Grit, perseverance, and stick-to-it-ive-ness are all important factors to success as well as a thick skin, the willingness to face your fears, and change when necessary.

    I love Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. 10,000 hours. There are days I wonder how close I am to that tipping point. I'll let you know one day when I begin the freefall. ;0) But 8 projects complete and two more currently in the works, I've got to be getting closer. Right?

    I feel like I've gained a great deal of momentum this weekend that I want to keep moving in the right direction. The important part is to know the strategic goal, figure out the tactical goals to get there and keep my eye on the prize.

    Good luck on your goals this week. May Marco & Krissie make the world safer for elves and wolves alike.

    Good hanging with you & with Mr. Mayer. Hooyah! . . . sorry, is that a Navy SEALs term? ;0)

  4. Nichole - I agree with your brother - you are due for a major success and I'll be lined up beside him to cheer you on!

    Candy - Hooyah! Not just for the Navy, no ma'am. Although different branches say/spell it differently, I think. But who cares? The important thing here is your work ethic. I'd be surprised if you haven't passed 10k hours. You ARE close to the tipping point and I see this as a break out year for you.

    Go team, go!

  5. Bob Mayer's Write it Forward was definitely boo-yah! I wrote 13 pages of notes on the Saturday workshop alone.

    What I came away with was "show no fear" and I plan to use that to get out of my comfort zone.

  6. I loved Bob's description of moving out of our comfort zone into our courage zone. We all have fears, but we can train ourselves to face the fear and reap rewards. Spread those wings, Beth, and fly!

  7. I'm glad you all found it worthwhile. Finally home and trying to sort through everything.

    Thanks for being such a great group.

  8. Bob - thanks for making it easy to be such a great group! Rest well and good luck on your upcoming deadlines.