I used to think that one needs to be incredibly talented to be considered “great” or to reach your dream (whether it be to get your book published or see that novel included in the coveted New York Times Best Seller’s List).
Over time I learned that this wasn’t really true.
Once more I see similarities between athletes and writers. How can a “regular” person achieve that ultimate level of success?
1. Dedication. How do you think athletes like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady* became the elite athletes they’ve become, huh? It wasn’t just by talent alone. They’re driven, dedicated, in their endeavors to be the best. They get up every day and train; are highly motivated to perfect each throw, learn every aspect of the game (in the case of these quarterbacks, reading the defense and anticipating their next move). The result? They make what they do seemed easy, seamless. It’s that old saying, Practice makes perfect. The same goes for writers. The only way you can become better at what you do is to learn as much as you can about your craft, and then practice what you learn. Every day, or as often as you can.
2. Perseverance. Peyton had a measurable success while in college but came short of winning the National Championship and the Heisman Trophy. He didn’t start off too hot in the NFL either (setting a record for the most interceptions thrown in a season). Did he become frustrated? Sure he did, but he didn’t give up. He just worked harder; studied longer. In the end, it paid off when he led the Colts to a Super Bowl win, and he’s now considered one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever. Rejections and revisions are the staple of any writer’s life. Success is difficult, but not impossible. The key? Never give up. Keep writing, keep revising, and keep submitting. Some of the greatest authors (King and Rowling to name only a few) were rejected as many as one hundred times before seeing one of their books accepted for publication. If your work keeps being rejected, you really are in great company so hang in there.
3. Make your own path. Peyton was expected to attend the same college, Ole Miss, as his father and older brother. He, instead, chose Tennessee and caught hell for it. Not so much from his family, but from his hometown and especially from the Ole Miss community. Peyton didn’t want to trek down the same road as his father or older brother. He didn’t want to be constantly under their shadows; he’d rather have his own. And what a huge shadow he created. There is nothing wrong with adopting another writer’s style, but over time, learn to create your own and from that you will find your true voice which will in turn set you apart from other writers.
4. Stop settling for less. Don’t allow critics (both internal and external) hold you back. You shelved a particular story idea because it was too controversial or shocking. Write it! Maybe it’s exactly what the world needs to hear. Or, maybe it could be something that could change a person’s life. Writers have the ability to change events or the course of history; but, none of these would have happened if they chose to listen to the naysayers. Don’t settle for what others want to hear or read; write what your heart wants. Be true to your calling, to yourself.
Okay, so that last point didn’t include an athlete so bite me 🙂 Bottom line, talent alone won’t bring you success or help you achieve your dream. It’s the heart, the passion for the craft that can lead a writer to greatness along with perseverance and always pushing forward no matter what the critics say.
**Part of the Writers are like athletes series