True Grit as a Writer

There is a word that applies to successful writers: GRIT.

Science has too long focused on intelligence & talent as determiners of success. And it’s not. The key to success is to set a specific long-term goal and to do whatever it takes until the goal has been achieved. That’s called GRIT (defined as courage and resolve; strength of character).

Duckworth did a study in 2008 at West Point. GRIT was the determining factor of Beast Barracks success. My plebe squad, back in the old days when men were men and the sheep ran scared, had five members. Three of them didn’t make it to Christmas the first year. They weren’t bad people; they just didn’t really WANT it. It’s the same in Special Forces training. There are those who go into it because they want to wear a green beret. They don’t make it. The ones who make it want to BE a green beret. There are those who want the lifestyle of ‘author’. They never get published. The ones who want to BE an author make it.

Way back in 1869, Stephen Jay Galton wrote a book titled: Hereditary Genius. He found that ability combined with zeal & capacity for hard work trumps talent.

Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up.” Again and again.

Available at WDWPUB

Successful people have a growth mindset. The problem with many talented people is that they know they are talented; they think that they already know everything they need to know. So they never adapt and change and grow. A growth mindset person believes they can always learn more.  Successful authors are always expanding their craft and their business savvy, especially in today’s rapidly changing publishing environment.

If the key is to set a long term goal and doing whatever it takes, the first question is:  Do you have a long term goal as a writer?  I call it the Strategic Writing Goal and discuss it in more detail in Write It Forward.

Strategic And Supporting Goals

The Hierarchy Of Goals

  • Overall Writing Goal. (Strategic)
  • Book goal. (Supporting)
  • Business goal (Supporting)
  • Shorter range/daily goals (Supporting)

Let’s talk about your strategic writing goal. It can be anything, but it’s important that you lock it down. Some broad examples:

I will be a NY Times best-selling thriller author in five years.

  • I will write my memoir for my grandchildren in the next three months.
  • I write part-time simply because it is a hobby and spend an hour a day on it.
  • I want to be published within 2 years by a major, traditional press.
  • I will have my book in print within 2 months via self-publishing.
  • I will earn X amount of dollars per month indie publishing in six months.
  • I will write a book that will help people with —– and spend the next three years using it to bolster and complement my speaking career.

The Importance Of Your Strategic Goal

It starts your creative and practical process.  Everything you do is going to be slanted to support this goal.  Your strategic goal determines your supporting goals. Writing it down and posting it where you can see it every single day helps keep you focused.  It determines how you approach the publishing business.  It is also the core of your work regime.  It is the core of your marketing campaign.

All supporting goals must align with it in the hierarchy.

Do you have a strategic writing goal?

About Bob Mayer

West Point Graduate, former Green Beret and NY Times bestselling author Bob Mayer has had over 50 books published. He has sold over five million books, and is in demand as a team-building, life-changing, and leadership speaker and consultant for his Who Dares Wins concept. He's been on bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, suspense, action, war, historical fiction and is the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll. Born in the Bronx, Bob attended West Point and earned a BA in psychology with honors and then served as an Infantry platoon leader, a battalion scout platoon leader, and a brigade recon platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. He joined Special Forces and commanded a Green Beret A Team. He served as the operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and with Special Operations Command (Special Projects) in Hawaii. Later he taught at the Special Forces Qualification Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, the course which trains new Green Berets. He lived in Korea where he earned a Black Belt in Martial Arts. He's earned a Masters Degree in Education.

Posted on April 3, 2012, in Write It forward and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Such a great post. It is like you read my mind. Exactly what is on my brain today.

  2. Fresh from my desk...

    Inspiring and timely post. I like the term “lock down” when applied to goals – nicely phrased. Looking forward to catching up on your previous posts.
    Warmly,
    Laura

  3. Thanks for the reminder! I’ve got writing career goals, but sometimes lose sight of them.

  4. In the Movie Miss Congeniality there is this scene where Victor is telling Sandra Bullock’s character to “be the crown you are the crown”. I love that scene. Of course she is trying to signal that the bomb is in the crown and he’s trying to channel the right energy so she’ll win.

    I’ve always believed that there are skills you can teach and learn. We can master those skills, but having the drive and determination to make something of those skills is entirely different. I know how to design clothes. I used to design dance costumes from scratch and sew them for the studio I worked at. I’m pretty good at it, but I have no desire to be a seamstress or a fashion designer. My heart is with where I’ve been spending the last 3 years…determined to make it work. Yes, I know, another hidden creative talent. I’m full of surprises.

  5. It’s important, also, to distinguish between goals over which you have control (I will finish X book in the next three months) and goals over which you have less–or even no–control (I will be NY Times best selling author within 2 years; or I will earn X amount of money). Life can intervene in the first kind of goal, but often you can work around that. You can’t force someone to buy your book. And in fact, switching from a traditional publishing goal to an indie one can eliminate goals you thought you had. That’s not a bad thing as long as you keep looking to the future.

  6. There is much you don’t control. But never stating a goal in the first place is the big mistake most people make.

  7. Strategic goals: One paranormal romance to be Indie published in one month. One nursing memoir to be published in two months. Paranormal mystery series – 2 books – to be published by the end of the year.

    Oh, yeah – plan wedding and honeymoon and move in the next 2 months….
    Sure I can do it…..

  8. Bob and Jen,
    My strategic goal is to publish a novel a year. Nothing more, nothing less. Strategic goals are crucial to success. Thanks for this post.

  9. whyidontgetgirls

    Love ‘ya Bob!

  10. Just mentioned my personal goal again on twitter. Don’t think I’ll make it in the timeline I’d first set.
    I want 1000 people to read my first novel within the first year. I have about 3 months left till July and I’m only half way there by my estimation. *sigh* Short of forcing people to open it, I think I’ll fall short time-wise. One the other hand, I think I can reasonably hit that goal in 18 months after publishing.

  11. Reblogged this on harshmellowblue and commented:
    “Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up.” Again and again.”
    That’s what I’m talking about! Having the tenacity to face down the ordinary and the banal, day after routine day. But here’s a twist: recently a man asked me what I do for a living, and I was able to say with conviction, “Murder for hire, extortion, alien hunting, and demon fighting, mostly.” I smiled, and he just sidled away. I let him go thinking what he wanted to think without explanation. I’m sure he thought I was nuts! Nevertheless, in the midst of the mundane I only need remind myself that I have the best job in the world because I am the creator of worlds within words!

  12. seumas gallacher

    Bob, ”Just love the stuff you blog. As a new indie writer, I’ve been astonished and delighted with my crime thriller debut novel’s Amazon Uk success,( The Violin Man’s Legacy) with over 16,000 downloads in the last few months merely from marketing it myself. I know better and bigger things beckon, and have set myself targets such as you outline. My initial ones are to get an agent ( it WILL happen.) and to break into the Amazon Us Kindle market.. I’ve laid out a business campaign to pursue these goals, but ensuring time to continue to write so that there is a flow of novels to back up the business plan. Keep shining that light Sir. Love it!

    Seumas Gallacher

  13. Bob, love your posts…have learned a lot. Thanks for all your share. I have a question about strategic goals. I’ve been writing/editing for about 25 years and my primary “strategic goal” has been to show up at the computer every day and type for all I’m worth to make my deadlines but I want to have more control over my career…I’d like it to have direction and I’d like to explore new avenues. I’ve been publishing my books traditionally but I’m very excited about the ePublishing possibilities – I guess that would be the control freak part of me. If you have more work than you can accomplish in an ordinary day how can your strategic goal be anything other than “paste butt to chair and write”? Thinking out loud…maybe the strategic goal would be to cut down on assigned work and grow my author platform to branch out on my own more? I don’t know…I’m not good at this goal stuff…does that sound like a strategic goal or wishful thinking??? Thoughts?

    • You have to ask yourself why am I sitting in this chair every day and writing? Where do I want to this take me a few years down the line?
      You have to think big picture and then come up with your smaller, daily goals based on what is needed to get you where you want to be with your strategic goal.

  14. Thanks for this, Bob. It was a great reminder to step back and look at everything from the bigger picture. A single slow day can get frustrating but when you look at the greater strategy it’s reassuring to know that a career or a dream isn’t measured in days at all.

  15. Great post and one that’s had me thinking for a while. The publishing journey is hard… once you’re published it’s harder still. But you are right… even then you need GRITS to go on, keep sitting in that chair (or sofa) and remember why you’re at it day after day… after day. Keeping a long-term goal and breaking those up into short term ones – and focussing on each in turn, as needed, makes the journey so much easier and practical!
    Look forward to reading more of your posts!
    Regards
    Anju

  16. I remember you discussing the setting of short term and long term goals at the retreat on Whidbey Island a few years ago. Thanks for that! I do write out my one year goals every January.
    Every year I’d write down: enter the Golden Heart contest with a new manuscript. And I always did. Then two years ago I wrote: final in the GH. : ) Last year I got so close. This year I made it. Yay!!! My manuscript, Exposure, is a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category. I’m not expecting a win because the competition is stiff and many of the writers have won before. But I’m thrilled to be recognized.
    So, not only must the goals be concrete, but in the shadow of disappointment you have to dig in and keep moving forward. Never give up.

  17. YES! I am so happy I can say I do have a strategic writing goal. I have to admit the only reason I do have it clearly defined, written out and posted above my desk is because I did the Warrior Writer’s course online last year!!!
    However, having said that, I have to tell you Bob, that getting clear about it has been no end of support and help. Thank you a thousand times over for your guidance :-)
    Yvette Carol

  18. My military father drilled certain truths into my brain:
    1. Cheaters Never Prosper – If you’re not willing to do the work, how can you expect to reap the reward? How can you earn self-respect?
    2. Quitters Never Win/Winners Never Quit – Any questions?
    3. You’re Only as Good as Your Last Failure – It’s easy to tout success and then become lazy. The real joy is in overcoming obstacles, conquering them, and finding new challenges.

  19. It’s all about the bigger picture and setting yourself little goals everyday to help you get there.

  20. Wow, I’m glad I read this. I was missing a few important steps. I have had a book goal and a daily word count goal, but no strategic goal. I will have to work on that. I love the idea of posting it up where I can see it everyday! I’m also thinking of saving an empty box of grits to put with my Transformer and my plastic poop as another reminder to keep working.

  21. Good one, Bob!

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