The Power of Grit for Writers

Only one more sleep before Grit for Writers hits Amazon bookshelves! To say I’m excited is an understatement. I wanted to share with you an excerpt from the introduction, the part where I explore why grit is so important to writers. I truly hope Grit for Writers is a book that will be useful and helpful.

Writing is a grit demanding profession. With the advent of cost-efficient digital publishing, with the flood of self-published work, book shelves are now immortal, infinite and jam-packed. Writing is a competitive, flooded market. Although updated data is always being published, the following statistics provide a ballpark idea of the sheer magnitude of what writers face.

  • It is currently estimated that there are over five million Kindle eBooks on Amazon alone. There are around 2,000 new eBooks published each day.
  • Bowker, the US company that issues International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), reported that the number of ISBNs from self-published books grew by 375% between 2010 and 2015.
  • Over one million books were published in the US in 2009, more than triple the number published four years earlier (2005).
  • Experts estimate that the average self-published author sells less than 100 copies.
  • For those seeking traditional publishers, it is estimated that the big publishers receive 4,000 to 5,000 submission per year (about a hundred per week). A proportion of those don’t meet the submission guidelines or aren’t professionally presented and are automatically rejected. Of the remaining proportion, 90% are rejected by the first paragraph. 98% are rejected by the first chapter.
  • People are reading less and less. In 2015, 43 percent of adults read at least one work of literature in the previous year, the lowest percentage in any year since 1982, when the literature reading rate was 57 percent. The average number of books each person reads over the course of a year is 12, which is probably inflated by voracious readers. The most frequently reported number was 4 books read per year.

Kinda depressing, huh? The reality is, writing in the current market isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Just like any career, it’s going to take time and effort. I had to study for four years to become a psychologist (after completing two other degrees), and then complete a two year internship. Was I a fabulous psychologist when I graduated, even after all that study? Put it this way, I cringe when I think of my first session with a client. I had to study for two years to become a teacher, also a postgraduate qualification (I’d already completed a science degree several years earlier). It took me at least another two to become proficient at all the intricacies that involve quality teaching. What if I decided I wanted to become a cabinet maker? I’d have to study the craft, buy the tools, and then I’d create my first project — maybe a chest of drawers. I would pour everything I learned into those pieces of timber. Should I try to sell it? Yes, it’s taken countless hours and a whole lot of dollars, and yes, I’m pretty proud of it. But is it good enough for public consumption? Should a consumer choose it above all the other chests of drawers out there?

No, they shouldn’t.

What these statistics tell us is that to be successful you have to write a darned good book. Your creation has to stand tall above the rest, a shining gem that readers won’t be able to resist. One they will tell their family and friends about, one that will have them frothing to read more of your creations. Now there are whole slabs of Amazon shelves and internet space allocated to the puzzle that comprises a well crafted book. But reading them, absorbing them and making them yours takes time and effort. Sitting down and writing draft after draft takes time and effort. Just like being a good teacher or effective psychologist or creating a carved masterpiece, a darned good book won’t happen quickly or easily.

For that, you’ll need grit.

How Grit Makes the Difference

What I love about grit is that it works double time. When you employ grit, not only are you transforming talent into skill, but whilst you’re busy persevering, skill transforms into achievement. Let me explain using Duckworth’s (author of Grit: Why Passion and Resilience are the Secrets to Success) fabulous equation:[1]

Talent on its own is nothing but unmet potential. It’s my son’s knack with animals. It’s my friend’s capacity to make even the grumpiest person smile. But inject some passion and perseverance (i.e. grit) through your talent and you’ve got skill.

Talent x Grit = Skill

But skill on its own is nothing but ‘could’ve been’. It’s the comedian that never got up on stage. It’s the book that never gets published. What happens when you take those skills and throw in some more grit?

Skill x Grit = Achievement

Bam, you’ve got the road to success all paved out.

Let me give you an example in the literary world, one that Duckworth herself cites. John Irving’s fourth novel, The World According to Garp, was a bestseller for several years. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1980, was recommended for a Pulitzer, and a movie adaptation of the novel starring Robin Williams was released in 1982. I’m going to propose that would meet most writers’ definition of success.

But Irving’s road to success wasn’t straightforward (is it ever?). Irving recalls receiving a C- in high school English. He had to stay in high school an extra year to earn enough credits to graduate. His teachers considered him ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid.’

It wasn’t until Irving’s son was diagnosed with dyslexia that he understood why school had been so difficult — he, himself, was severely dyslexic. Irving had always found reading effortful, consistently taking longer than his classmates, usually reading with his finger following the sentence. What’s more, Irving wrote three books before Garp, each one was reasonably well reviewed but failed to gain a large readership.

Irving himself states he isn’t a natural. What Irving does is rewrite, over and over and over again. He spends more time revising a novel than he does writing the first draft. Irving’s confidence in his writing stems from his capacity to ‘go over something again and again no matter how difficult it is.’ Just like any other successful writer or executive or athlete, Irving demonstrates that grit is the key to harnessing your talent and skill. Millions of readers touched by Irving’s words are a testament to this fact.

So grit counts twice. With effort, talent becomes skill, and at the same time, effort makes skills productive. It doubles your chances of success!

So now that we know what grit is, and we understand why it’s such a game changer, how do we cultivate it?

Well…for that you’re going to have to buy the book (and I’m going to make it 99c for release week!). I’ll keep you posted about when it’s live.

What’s your thoughts? Has grit been a part of your writing journey? Do you think it could be helpful to cultivate a little more grit in your life? Comments and feedback are a great way to get a conversation going. Connecting with others is why I write. You can comment below, or connect with me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Have a wonderful week,

Tamar

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