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GYWD #9: Why Grit Makes Great Writers

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Is there a writer alive who hasn’t wondered at some if they would ever be able to finish a book or some other writing project? Maybe it was your first book and you didn’t know if you had it in you. Maybe it was your tenth book that you wrote while raising three kids and wrangling wild mustangs for a living. Or maybe it’s the book you’re working on right now and you’re stuck, and you’re not sure how to get unstuck.

What is the secret to finishing those books? Writing takes all kinds of of talents, but probably the single best predictor of wether a person is going to finish a book – any book or project – is how gritty they are. Are you willing to keep your eyes on the prize long enough to see things through? Are you willing to keep going when the going gets tough?

Today we’re talking about grit, and most importantly, how to build your grit muscle so you can get your writing done.


Angela Duckworth’s Grit Scale
Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

The 12 Week Year for Writers
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Trevor Thrall 0:00
Welcome to the Get your reading done podcast. I’m Trevor Thrall, author of the 12 week year for writers Is there a writer alive, who hasn’t wondered at some time, if they would ever be able to finish a book or some other reading project? Maybe it was your first book, and you didn’t know if you had it in you. Maybe it was your 10th book that you wrote while raising three kids and wrangling wild mustangs for a living? Or maybe it’s the book you’re working on right now. And you’re stuck. And you’re not sure how to get unstuck. What is the secret to finishing those books, writing takes all kinds of talents. But probably the single best predictor of whether a person is going to finish a book, any book or a project is how gritty they are, are you willing to keep your eyes on the prize long enough to see things through? Are you willing to keep going when the going gets tough? Today, we’re talking about grit, and most importantly, how to build your grit muscle, so you can get your writing done.

As everybody knows, writing is hard. I’ve said this a whole bunch of times, I’ll say it a whole bunch more times, writing is hard. It takes a sustained effort over a long period of time to write a book, or to publish a blog or a newsletter over a long period of time. And because of that, the best predictor of whether you’re going to finish that book, or keep that blog or newsletter going, is grit. Some people might think that to be a writer, to write a book, you need to be a good writer, you have to have talent, or you have to be smart, or you have to have a lot of time. And all those things help. But none of those is as good a predictor of whether you’re going to finish something as a grit. So what is grit? Something we all know when we see it right? I’m gonna refer you’re here to Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology, she wrote a great book called grit. And she defines grit, as the passion having passion and perseverance for long term goals, or the ability to pursue long term goals, despite challenges and setbacks, and what have you. And if you’re wondering how gritty you are, as I’m sure you might, you should go take the grit scale quiz, you can go to Angela And, and take the free grit scale quiz don’t even have to give them an email to find out how gritty you are. Let me just read you a couple of the questions that you’ll encounter on this scale. First one is new ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones. And you tell the quiz whether that’s not much like you, or some like you’re nothing like you know, that kind of thing. setbacks don’t discourage me, I don’t give up easily. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one. I am a hard worker, I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete, you get the you get the concept, right. And the the grit scale is really made up of two different dimensions. The first is passion, the second perseverance, and by passion. Duckworth doesn’t mean the hot emotion of being enthusiastic or over the moon about something over a short period. Instead, what she really means by passion is constancy of focus, right wanting to do something, or singular, something enough that you continue to be focused on it instead of getting distracted by other things to do. The second piece is perseverance, which is kind of the more obvious, I think, piece of grit, that stick to itiveness, that doggedness to finish something once you’ve decided to start it, right, so, so the grid scale builds out of both of these two things. And she argues that, you know, it’s this combination of having a constant goal, and then being able to pursue that goal, despite challenges and setbacks, or it gets hard sometimes, right? Is is sort of what makes a person greedy. And it’s interesting because,

you know, as she points out in the book, we’re not equally greedy in all aspects of our life. And you know, that makes sense. If you think about the passion side of it, as opposed to the permit, even if, say perseverance was baked into you. Like that was just a genetic thing, right? You don’t have the same level of sort of interest or constancy of focus In all realms of your life, right? Maybe there are some things like maybe you’re a runner, and you like to run marathons and you have a constant focus on why to run the fastest marathon you can or something like that, right? But maybe say when it comes to, you know, school, you don’t really like school, you don’t have much care for school, you don’t have any particular topics you like at school. And so you don’t, you’re not very gritty, you sort of bounce around different courses. Alright. So it’s not like grit is a sort of a genetic marker you have at once and it’s done. For all times, we were all gritty to different degrees in different situations, or on different topics, right. And so you know, obviously for, for our purposes, today, we’re thinking about grit related to our writing. And what’s fascinating about Duckworth is she studied grit, a lot wrote a whole book, obviously, but he has done many, many, many studies, about the importance of grit to various things. And what she has found is that grit is just a spectacular predictor of achievement across just the wildest range of things you can imagine everything from which people will pass a special forces sort of rigorous training program in the armed forces to who will win the National Spelling Bee, to who will finish college or graduate school. And I don’t think it would be going out on a limb to argue that it’s almost certainly the case, don’t think I read about a study of writers in particular, but I don’t think there’s any question that grit is one of the best if not the best predictor of who finishes a book that they start to write. Right? So now, of course that I’ve, I’ve said all this, you’re, you’re looking at your grit score, I hope you went to the grit scale, and did that. So you’re looking at your grit score, and you’re looking over your unfinished manuscript? And you’re saying, Oh, am I screwed, because my grit score is too low. I’m just stuck, I’m destined never to finish this book, or this, you know, newsletter, whatever it’s going to be? And the answer is, of course not, of course not. You can grow your grit muscle 100%, you can grow your grit muscle. And even better, even better, you can use whatever project you’re working on right now to do it, you absolutely can. So the interesting thing about grit is just like muscles, you can’t grow your muscles in a lab, you can’t grow it, sitting in your chair, reading about it, you can’t talk about it, you have to do it, you have to do gritty things. You know, I have three kids. And one of the things I think any parent will tell you is that the act of parenting made you a much, much more gritty person than you were when you started having kids. That’s because they make you do things over and over. And you know, things you never would have thought you could do like get up at 2am for five years in a row, or, you know, manage diapers for years in a row. I mean, just the endless stuff you have to do takes a lot of grit grit you didn’t have. And I’ll tell you what, you didn’t get it from reading that book. Everyone used to read what to expect, while you’re expecting, right. I mean, that was a great book, and all told you a lot of things that you would be worrying about later. But it didn’t make you gritty, no getting up every morning to feed the kids that makes you gritty, right. So same thing if you want to run, you don’t get greedy as a runner by reading Runner’s World Magazine and looking at all the pretty pictures hope you get gritty at running by going out on the trail and running every day, right. And as we’re on the topic of running, I’ll just share a story of my sort of first kind of, you know, vivid experience with learning that Greg was involved in something I was doing. And then also sort of my first experience of figuring out how to become grittier on purpose. Because that those are two things that I think are really critical to becoming a grittier person. And, you know, we all could use being a little grittier, I think, but you know, the first time that I had this sort of twin experience of realizing grit was involved. And figuring out how to become grittier was a really important one to me, and it’s not about writing, but But again, the insight I got from it, the model I got from it has carried with me ever since. And so in my 20s I finally

started running, and I’d always been really into sports as a kid. I always hated running just not my thing for whatever reason. And so in I was in graduate school and started running and this curious thing would happen and I was enjoying it. You know, it was a lot of fun. And you know it started out slow because I was terrible runner ran very, very short distances at first, you know, and I built up. But this curious thing would happen to me. If I had to take more than a few days off in a row, you know, maybe traveling, I get sick or something like that. The first day I would come back to running, I’d be running for just a few minutes. And then all of a sudden, and this was so strange, all of a sudden, my thighs, both of my thighs would get like ice cold. And they would start itching, like so itching so bad, I would want to like climb and I would club climbing and my thighs. But what is going on, they’re like bunch of bees in there or something like it’s just awful feeling. And my mood would just darken like the darkest mood possible at the same time. And the first few times this happened, I just I just stopped running and walked home. And I was like, What do you know? And eventually, after this happened a few times I realized, well, first of all, I got a name, I started calling them the grumpies. Because it would happen, I would get really grumpy. I would my thighs would be hurting, it’d be cold, be weird. I it was a bad bad feeling. So it was the grumpies. But what I discovered was that if I just kept going for a few more minutes, the grumpies would go away. And I think I found this out one time when I was running with my wife, and I didn’t want to stop and turn around because she was with me. And so I was like, well, I just I’m just gonna have I said, I can’t believe this. I’m having these worried grumpies and, you know, we talked about it didn’t come up with any, you know, big insight or anything. But you know, a few minutes later, my thighs warm back up, the itching went away. And we kept on running. And I was like, Uh huh, I grumpies. So I, you know, had this in my brain that they sort of went away. And I still wondered what happened, why they happened. I never got any, you know, any info on that. But the next time I had to take some time off and come back, I thought to myself, you know what’s going to happen, don’t you, you’re going to get the guppies again. And so I prepared for it mentally, this time, I said, All right, Trev, you’re going to get the grumpies, about 567 minutes in. And what you’re going to do is you’re not going to worry about it. And so I went into it, I ran, I got the grumpies I was grumpy for several minutes, like black mood settles on me, I felt like crap. And then a few minutes later, I popped out of it, it was fine. And I went along with my run had a great run. The next time I ran, and I knew I was gonna have to suffer through the grumpies after some layoff or another, I took an extra step, I said, Alright, I know I’m gonna get copies, I’m gonna feel very black and Moody, it’s gonna be very bad. But you know, what I’m gonna do is I’m not gonna panic, I’m gonna get the grumpies. And I’m just gonna slow down a little bit, let’s slow my pace a little bit, so that I don’t. So I can kind of take care of myself during the grumpies a little bit, be a little easier on myself, right? No, push it, so it doesn’t hurt so much. And so that’s what I did. And so I slowed into it, the grumpies kind of wore off more quickly, because I wasn’t pushing it so much. My life worn back up, and boom, I was off to the races. At that point, I pretty much just defeated the grumpies. They didn’t ever stop showing up. I always got the grumpies after a layoff, but they never bothered me so much again, because I had a plan for getting through them. And that sort of, you know, long and rambly story was the first time I ever really gutted through something that you know it consciously anyway, that was difficult and unpleasant. And moreover, it was also the first time I came up with a strategy for managing that unpleasant thing in order to keep doing what I want it to do. So for me, it was kind of a growth of my grit. But it was also a growth in my grit management capability, if you will, my ability to grow my own grit grew when I figured out a strategy for managing that grumpy process. Alright, so with that sort of story as Prelude, I want to offer sort of three sort of general strategies for

sort of helping grow your your grit, when it comes to writing, and then I’ll offer at the end sort of just a final sort of warning about not letting grit turning to grind. Because I think in our world, sometimes people think that the two are synonymous, and I don’t think I don’t think that they are. So okay. So the first sort of, and each of my three strategies has bullet points, so forgive me, but I’ll put all this in the show notes. So you have that. So the first general strategy is to manage your mindset. And I think you know, the big thing I learned from my attack of the grumpies was that your emotions are a big driver of why you stop right when when you’re upset. You’re angry, you’re afraid, you’re worried. Your emotions are often the main reason that you don’t press through with something, right? That’s I mean, that’s makes our human nature right, if it gets, if it starts hurting, we stopped. Don’t do that if it hurts, you know, if we’re afraid you, you go somewhere where you don’t feel afraid, those are totally understandable things. But when it comes to getting something done that you really want to get done, you need to admit you need to find a way to manage those emotions and not let them manage you. So the first part of that is to acknowledge your emotions, you are a human being, you’re not a machine, you’re not a tool, who can just you can just hit the on button, and you start producing writing, no, you’re human, you have emotions, and you have to acknowledge that some of them are bad and feel bad, right? But you also at the same time need to remind yourself, they are just feelings, they are not people with axes and hammers trying to hit you. They are feelings, they are not going to kill you. Right, they are feelings, and they are temporary. None of the feelings you have ever had has ever stayed a lot around that long. And grumpies don’t last but a few minutes, typically, right? Or a few hours, maybe a few days, if you’re having a down patch, but it’s not gonna last forever, and it’s not gonna kill you. If you keep writing through those feelings. You’re not gonna die. Right? At the same time, I have a phrase that I love that a basketball coach of a team I like to follow. uses a lot and and the phrase is embrace the suck. And that sounds weird, but but I think you sort of akin to this emotional sort of acknowledgement that sometimes writing can be hard, and it can feel bad. And I’m not up for anything right now. And how do I find the ability to be great in the moment? How do I find the ability to keep going today, when it just feels like I’d rather be doing something else. And this can be especially true if you have a busy schedule, and your writing is pushed too early in the morning. So you’re getting up early, you’re losing sleep, and you’re asking yourself, can I do this? Again, right. And I think one of the sort of concepts behind the embrace the suck, right is to sort of say, Look, I’m on a journey. I’m on a warrior’s journey here, I, I’m going to be proud of myself for getting up at six in the morning, I’m going to see how many times in a row, I can get up at six in the morning, I’m going to embrace that and embrace how bad it feels. Look at this, this is horrible. This is terrible. Who else would be doing as Look at me doing this horrible, terrible thing? Right? Take pride in the fact that you’re doing something hard, because that’s what you’re doing, you’re doing something hard, right? So embracing the suck, I think can be a way of flipping the hard stuff around saying look, I you know, I don’t really like this right now. But I like the fact that I’m doing it, right.

A third really, really important thing, in terms of managing your mindset, when you’re having tough grit sort of questionable moments, is not to judge yourself. I think one of the loops that we all can get into very easily is to start looking at the fact that we’re not getting enough done, or we haven’t written as much as we want it to by now, we haven’t published something yet, or whatever it might be. And we start judging ourselves. And that gets us into a negative loop. Because we’re like, ah, I failed, or I’m failing. But that, that doesn’t do you any good. Right? Especially don’t judge yourself when you’re in the middle of the grumpies. Right? Because you’re not being fair to yourself. I heard a fantastic term. The other day that I’m going to have to talk about more in the in the future. But the term is productivity dysmorphia. Right. A lot of us no matter how much we’re getting done, right? objectively, often we don’t feel like we’re getting enough done, because there’s always more you could do, right and worse yet, there’s always others who are doing more, right. And it’s a trap. It’s a trap to get into to, to judge yourself on your toughest days. And it’s also important not to judge yourself relative to someone else, you can’t know what their situation is. And even if they’re doing more or better or whatever. So what you’re doing what you can do, your only objective measure is yourself and your own vision. And are you moving in the direction to do the things you want to get done in life? Right? And so don’t judge yourself, especially in your worst days. I mean, the funny thing is, like, if you think you had a terrible writing day, and you put that stuff away for a few weeks, then you go back and look at all your writing in the bad day versus some other day. You know, most writers will say, look, I can’t really judge the day of, you know, I thought I was having a bad day, but it was all perfectly good writing, right? I mean, so don’t judge yourself then and certainly don’t compare yourself to others. And then a last piece I think on the mindset journey here is don’t expect immediate improvement. Just like when you go to the gym, Easter. Lifting weights, you go that first day you feel that great soreness and you’re like, ah, I must be 10 times stronger already, you’re not, you’re not, you might even be a little weaker, because you just use those muscles, right? Don’t expect immediate improvement. trust the process, though, trust the process. If you’re in a grip building sort of process, right, you’re, if you’re implementing strategies that are, are having you do the gritty work, if you’re lifting that grit, you know, if you’re lifting stuff for the grit muscles, you will get stronger, you will get greater, it might not feel like it right away. But you absolutely will just trust the process. But don’t, don’t rush it right, don’t expect it to all happen overnight. I am a much prettier person at age 53 than I was at 23. It’s not even close. I mean, it’s I mean, I kind of cringe, to think about how ungrateful I was at 23 relative to today, but it took me all of those 30 years to get where I am. So it’s a bit by bit sort of a process. Okay, so this sort of big step one is a managing your mindset approach to becoming sort of emotionally ready to become great here. The second piece is sort of focused on the passion dimension that Angela Duckworth talks about. And so here, I would say, the overarching advice or recommendation is to tend your passion. So, you know, passion, again, remember, it’s not, in this case, like, follow your passion, meaning like you have some kind of short term, you know, hot emotion about something like, Oh, I’m passionate about, right? It’s not, it’s not that it’s, it’s about constancy of focus. And what’s interesting, if you think about that, what is a constancy of focus? Right? Where does that come from? Right. And so, of course, in the 12, week, year world, it should come from your vision, it should come from your life vision. So the first thing you need to do in order to make sure you have constancy of focus around your writing, is you need to align your life vision and your writing vision you need to make, make sure that what you’re writing right now, really is something that is getting you toward your ultimate sort of purposes in life, your ultimate goals in life. And, or, you know, to think of it another way, your identity, the identity that you’re building, I am a person who writes, I am a person who helps people by producing these kinds of written objects, right? whatever that might be an advice column, an opinion column, a newsletter to help people reach their goals in whatever sector of the world you work in, right?

If you’re really clear about those things, if those things are deeply held values and identities for you, you’re going to find your constancy is a lot better than if you’re asking yourself to write something that is really tangential to those things. And I think, you know, a lot of people would like to write a book. But do need to read a book, right? There’s a big difference. I would like to write a book. Yeah, sure, I’d like to, you know, learn all sorts of things I don’t, because they don’t actually align with the things I really need to get done in my life, I only have so many hours a day a week, I can’t do everything. So I, I prefer to focus on those few things that I really, really need. So the first step of the sort of 10 year, your passion thing is to make sure that your writing is aligned with your passion, right, with your deeply held purposes, with your life vision. Right? And I think, you know, a second thing is that a lot of times when we’re having grit check moments, when we’re feeling the grumpies when we are feeling under inspired, and not very stick to it. If I think those are times when we need to have a vision, sort of check in sort of inspirational confirmation of why you’re doing what you’re doing. What is the why right. And so I think, you know, some people kind of keep vision boards, you maybe have a conversation with someone about your vision to kind of, I think, you know, for me, I know when I start telling someone about where I’m trying to be and what I’m trying to do, I get so excited, I can get all excited again, about stuff, even if I’ve said it 100 times, sometimes just being in your own head is not healthy. And talking about it. Being in a group of fellow writers and hearing them be excited about their writing, right? Look for those ways to reignite or reconnect, maybe that’s a better phrase to reconnect with why you’re writing. That can be that can be huge, because if we forget, if we if we lose that visceral feeling of connection between the hard stuff we’re doing during the day, and where we’re trying to get to, it becomes very hard to sustain The effort over the long time hall that you need is just very hard, you need to keep that motivation that passion up, right. And then the last piece of that is that we need to, again, to maintain the constancy and sort of singularity of focus that is required of writing especially. We need to pare away all the non essential stuff, things that are distracting you, right? And it’s funny because on the grid scale quiz, you know, one of the, one of the questions is I tend to lose focus and jump to another project, right? You know, I’ve been guilty of that many times. But you know, as I’ve suggested, now, more than once, in the podcast, right, having a place to off road, those ideas that pop up so they don’t get in your way, while you’re trying to do something right now, having an idea garden can be really useful, because because jumping from thing to thing is very bad for your productivity, very bad for getting things done, and it eats away at your, at your sort of your grip muscle, your grip muscle needs to practice doing one thing over and over to get big, your grip muscle does not grow. If you write the first page of 20 novels, that’s not your grip, muscle growing, that’s maybe I don’t know, your idea generating muscle might be growing when you do that. But your grip muscle is is not strengthening. When you do that, your grip muscle strengthens when you say I’m going to write page 205. Today, I’m not going to write the first page of that novel. And the next day when you write 200, page 206 and not the first page of the other novel, your grip muscle grows. And when you finally finish that book, your grip muscles are very big, because you didn’t write the first page of some other book or a bunch of other books. Nope. Instead, you kept building that muscle, seeing that thing through. So paring away stuff that is going to distract you is is important. And you know that that could be a whole discussion in itself. How do you how do you pare things down. And that’s probably a good subject for another episode.

Okay, last big, sort of sort of bullet point here is to build strategic writing habits. Because, you know, even though it’s sort of generically true that you have to do the gritty thing to build the grit, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t better and smarter ways to do that than others, right? I mean, you don’t become a gritty runner by going out and running a marathon, the very first day you’ve ever run, that would be very counterproductive, you would hurt yourself, you become completely demoralized, and you might never run again. And in fact, just to go back to my running example, when I discovered the grumpy thing, fine. And this was a weird thing, because it took me actually a long time to figure out that this was the pattern. I didn’t take a lot of different days off. So it didn’t happen very often. And so when I finally figured it out, I was, I was probably in my late 20s. And, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, I and I was thinking back to, to high school. And, you know, as I said, I hated running. But I was, you know, I was very into sports, I played tennis, I played soccer. And I didn’t, I knew that I needed to run to sort of be at the place I want to be athletically. But I, I never did it. But when I thought back, I realized I had tried to start running a few different times. But what happened is, I quit after exactly one run each of those times. And I thought back and I realized I had the grumpy problem. Like those two or three different times, I hadn’t diagnosed it, I didn’t realize it, all I felt was the emotion, all I felt was the pain. And so I never kept going. And in retrospect, I realize if I had had someone who was already running, and who could have told me about how, what a good way to get into running might have been, or if I had to join a running club, that could have helped me get along and get into it. And I could have shared my my issue with and they could have, they could have told me it wasn’t a problem, right? So you get the point, right? There are there are better and not so good ways to get into things. And so just like with running or any other thing, you can program your writing in such a way to make it easier for you to build up grit, bit by bit, right than it is to sort of say, you know, put the whole book on your to do list this week. Right? So here’s just a few thoughts, right? The first thing is, is to respect the challenge that you’re facing and and create plans accordingly. So if you are a person who, at some point in your life, with writing where you’re at right now, where you’re finding your grit muscle is a little weak, right? You need to create plans that reflect the reality, not the reality you want to be true but the reality that is true today. Don’t judge yourself. Except that you’re going to start where you’re at, just as if you’re starting to run, or if you’re trying to lift weights, if you’ve never done before, you’re starting from where you are. And your plans should reflect more modest goals, more modest targets for word count, all that sort of stuff, as you’re building your grip muscle, and your ability to press on for however many hours a day, or For how many days a week, or whatever the issues are for you. So it’s respect the challenge, understand it’s going to be a challenge, embrace the suck, and create your plans accordingly, right, be easy on yourself, you want to stretch yourself a little bit to grow, but don’t expect to go too fast. You know, I think, you know, James clears, you know, great book on habits is, is, you know, generically correct. You hear this a lot all over the place these days, but 1% per day is fast enough, even less than that is fast enough. If you if you can improve at 1% a day or 1% a week, you will be writing a lot sooner than you think. The other big thing I think that is really important is to create a writing ritual. Now having a writing schedule is sort of the sort of the top level or maybe maybe the foundational thing we all need to do, you need to know when and where you’re going to write. That’s the beginning of a ritual. But by ritual, and there is a wonderful book called daily rituals by

Mason curry, I’ll put that in the show links as well. It’s just basically a bunch of short entries about writers and poets and playwrights, and all sorts of folks who did a lot of writing and creating, and it just sort of little insights from biographies and stuff about how they did their thing. And the thing that you will notice. And the reason the book is called daily rituals is because these people who are productive, have rituals, they tend to do things the same way, the same times every week, every day, the same way. Right. And, and the reason and that’s, and that, obviously is a habit. And as I’ve talked about before, habits are things that are easy to do. Things that are not habits are harder to do. So, you know, it sounds like cheating. But making things easier to do is how you build your grit muscle. Purposely making things harder or too hard is a really good way to demoralize yourself, and to quit and to lose an opportunity to build your grit muscle. So the goal behind a writing ritual, right is to make everything as automatic as possible. So you need to do as little thinking about getting there about getting set up about what you’re going to write, and so on. And I talk in the book about how it makes sure every writing session is maximally maximally maximally, maximally productive. And that is to prepare ahead of time as much as possible. So that you’re not going into the session wondering, hey, I wonder what I’m going to write today. Or I wonder how long I’m gonna write today, or that sort of stuff? Nope, you want to plan all that. So you want to design all of that stuff upfront. And all you then need to do is show up and follow the agenda. Because the less thinking you have to do about that, the easier the more brain space and energy, you have to be gritty and to do the work. Right. It’s it’s hard to do the thinking about the work. And it’s hard to do the work. So if you can separate those two things, right, take them a chunk at a time, you’re going to be in much better shape. So a writing ritual and being prepared for every session is going to get you a lot, a lot of benefit. next piece here on the street strategy of your writing habits is to be willing to slow down on hard days. Right now, again, you’re not a machine, don’t be your own worst nightmare. Don’t be a taskmaster to the point where you are making yourself feel worse by the end of the day, rather than better. If you go into a day and you’re and you’re having one of those sort of gut check days where you’re just like, Nope, I don’t feel it. I don’t feel it at all today. The challenge, right to build your grit muscle in those situations is to slow down, but not to stop. Practicing not stopping is phenomenal grit building. And I this is one of my sort of ways that I have managed to build the writing grid in particular is that there are definitely days when I’m not feeling for any. I mean, there are so many reasons it doesn’t even bear discussion. It could be what you ate that morning. It could be your emotional mood with your partner. It could be that you didn’t get a raise. It could be that you just fell out of bed the wrong way this morning. Who knows. But there are days when you’re just like, wow, it’s not coming. But the trick is if you want to get that book done, don’t stop. Just write slower If you normally want to target over 2000 words for that session, it’s okay if you write 1000, it’s okay if you write 500, right? 50, just write something, because any day you write something, you’re building that grit muscle a little bit more, even if it’s not as much more as it would have been, it’s your building, you are saying, nope, I am not going to stop, right. And then sort of, there’s another piece of this, if you’re really having a tough day, and I have plenty of these to where you’ve just, it’s not going to happen, the writing thing in particular, I can’t, I’m stuck, I, today is not going to happen. This is the session where I’m supposed to write this scene, or where I’m supposed to write this part of a chapter or whatever, I don’t get it. I can’t, it’s not coming. And I’m going to, I’m going to start bleeding through my eyeballs. If I if I try any harder on this right now, that happens, don’t judge, it happens. So but what is important in these cases is again, to try to keep the forward momentum. I always use Dory from Finding Nemo, Just keep swimming. But in this case,

I say you should always have a plan for playing defense. And and defense is just my sort of nickname for things I do when I can’t play offense and offenses. What I mean by writing you know, so I mean, that’s that’s the forward progress I’m, I’m really excited about the defense is alright, on a day, I don’t have my offense, I don’t have my a game, it’s time to do the stuff that help me move along, but not on the writing specifically. So I might, you know, do interviews, I might call some people about a project, I might do all the emails related to a project, whatever it might be, you could write notes about scenery, you could start a different piece, because even though you weren’t supposed to do that today, if it’s something you can do, right, and so if you have a list of things that are the kind of things you will do in a, on a bad day, that’s a nice thing to have. Because then if you do run into that, you don’t have to waste a lot of time or feel bad, because you don’t know what to do next, you have a sort of a small list of things, you know, break glass in case of emergency and do these things. So having a plan for playing defense, I think, is a really useful thing. And the last, the last thing I’ll say here, just just on that point of strategic writing habits is if you’re really starting from scratch, if you if you’re a new writer, and you’re like I don’t know how to do any of this, and I’m not sure how ready Am I am now or, you know, we’ll be at writing or, or maybe you’ve, you’ve had sort of a long dark period where the writing hasn’t been happening, and you need to build this whole thing back up from scratch. I really, really, really do recommend baby steps. And, and the mantra of Don’t rush, this is not a sprint, it is a marathon, your life is long, you have plenty of time to write, you need to just start with the smallest of steps. And every day, you’ll just take one more step. So if you’re sort of too, you know, towards the right, to set up your desk, day one, sit down at your desk, day two, day three, put your name on a piece of paper, right? I’m not joking, I’m taking small steps as you need to build up the habit of sitting down at your desk at the time when you’re wanting to write. And just another minute a day of writing whatever, however slow. I mean, what if you added one minute a day? You know, that sounds silly and slow? And wow, a baby would do that? No, a real person would do that who’s having trouble writing and needs to grow the muscle gradually, right? Because if you grow by one minute a day, in two months, you’re writing an hour a day. It’s more than most people right? Right? I mean, three months, that’s an hour and a half a day. In four months, you’ve written two hours a day, I mean that you know it sounds hard I mean a very wait it’s gonna take me two months to be able to write as much as two months is nothing guys, nothing, blink of an eye. And in the long run, once your grip muscles built up to that point, I mean, you’re off to the races, you’ll have that the rest of your life. So don’t rush. Take whatever baby steps you need to build a healthy writing habit. And as I mentioned the word healthy writing habit. I’m gonna, I’m going to end on a note of sort of caution. As I was reading this book on grit by Angela Duckworth, which I enjoyed very much. One of the things that she doesn’t discuss in the book, understandably, is the tendency for people to confuse grit. That is the ability to stick to a constant purpose despite challenges and setbacks, which is undeniably a good thing to be able to have. I remember my wife asked a former student friend of hers, who had gone on to get up PhD, she, my wife was about to go get her PhD. And she asked him well, you know, any advice, any thoughts about grad school that you might share? And he said, Yep, the one number one most important thing is, is grit. It’s going to be hard. And, and, you know, he had kids too, I believe. And so he’s like, and you have kids. And so the only word is grit. And man, he was not wrong. not wrong at all, anyone who has a PhD will tell you this.

But there’s an incredible tendency for people to, to confuse grit, with grind, and what’s grind, I think we all know grind, right? grind is doing a thing, until you have destroyed every fiber of enjoyment, every fiber of interest, until every ounce of the will to live has left your body. Right, that’s grind, and I’m a little bit afraid that people will look at the grit scale. And, and read things like I never give up. Or I always finish what I start or things like that, and exalt them from sort of, sort of, you know, empirical tendencies into moral goods. And so I you know, because I, I see, I look around, and I live in the Washington DC area, so it’s not hard for me to look around and find people who grind you know, people who work 60 7080 hours a week doing doing one thing, doing it very well very often getting a lot of kudos for it, getting a lot of rewards for it. But I think there’s a big difference between a healthy use of grit right and if you think of it there’s a big difference between healthiest use of grit and being a grind that may look like a great strategy in the short term, but in the long term is going to be a problem. I think you know, if you have ever had a passion that you pursued with with a lot of focus over time, I’ll bet you a lot of you can tell me stories about that turning into too much of a grind and if we sort of think of the you know, Aristotelian sense of the golden mean you know if grit is the perfect sort of middle balance, grind is on one side and an inability to stick to things as on the other side we’re looking for that golden mean so the one thing you want to be careful of when you’re exerting and building the grit muscle is that you don’t find yourself turning into a grind and I think you know, the watch signs of that are you’re feeling burnt out, you’re you’re feeling like, you know, maybe you hate everything that you used to love those things are signs that you might have to you might want to pull back on the throttle, and and you know, be gritty, but but not be too grindy Alright, we’ll put a pin in there. I look forward to what your guys take on on grittiness is and strategies that you have found successful for building your grittiness as a writer and until next time. Happy writing.

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