FINDING YOUR WRITER GRIT
As my online Story Structure Safari class comes to a close, I'm grateful for the hard work, enthusiasm, and guts my students displayed as they wrestled with the assignments and gave new vision to their stories.
I love the idea of a Safari because my class opens up new vistas of story that some writers have never seen and allows other students to revisit story elements with a different mindset.
Being open to new ideas and new processes can be a challenge. Like our heroes and heroines, we have to face adversity and be willing to fight through the fear and discomfort.
How can we, successfully face the gauntlet of opposition that lines the trail of our writer’s journey?
I’ve been reading Charles Duhigg’s THE POWER OF HABIT.
Duhigg talks about Keystone Habits—these keystone habits encourage widespread change by creating cultures where new values become ingrained.
A study of West Point cadets illustrated this type of culture creation. Scientists studied factors for potential success among the cadets. What the researchers found mattered most was what they termed “grit”.
They defined this grit as “the tendency to work strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.”
That description of grit reminds me of my writing journey and so that of so many other writers.
I’ve racked up plenty of years of strenuous work despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. I’ve got the pages and pages of revision, multiple files on my computer hard drive and various thumb drives, double digit rejections from agents, and plenty of former critique group members that dot the trail I’ve traveled. Just like every other person that takes up the challenge of becoming a writer.
What made some of these West Point Cadets able to withstand the pressure, when others packed their bags and hit the road?
Their grit emerged out of a culture they created for themselves and the keystone habits they established.
Nine cadets formed a group that met every morning to make sure everyone was feeling strong. One of the group said, “I go to them if I’m feeling worried or down, and I know they’ll pump me back up. We call ourselves the musketeers. Without them, I don’t think I would have lasted a month here.”
Duhigg says, “To succeed you need a keystone habit that creates a culture—such as a gathering of like-minded friends—to help find strength to overcome obstacles.
THE POWER OF MANY OR EVEN A FEW
A group is a very powerful force.
That group culture is one of the pieces that make my Story Structure Safari a success. When students share their assignments and see the work and process of each other, they gain confidence and new vision with their own story.
During my class, I encourage students to buddy up or join a small pack to support each other when the going gets tough. Someone else is likely experiencing the same frustrations and fears. Sharing that and helping them through it is one of the things that will keep us writing.
WHEN YOU'RE ALONE
Ours is a solitary business for much of the time. So finding that group of like-minded people to encourage us and keep us going, but also kick us in the pants when needed, is important.
We must continually be on the lookout for ways to strengthen our Writer Grit.
Finding a group of like-minded writers is a good thing, figuring out how to best use that collective to help you through the tough times is just as important.
After the class is over, when your critique group implodes, if you live in the isolation of rural America, you have to have a plan to hold on to that Grit you have.
The Mind Demons chip away our confidence and blast us with negatives. Be alert to their attacks and reach out.
YOUR VISION OF WRITER GRIT
I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences with Writer Grit.
Another installment on Writer Grit coming soon.