Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

by Shannon Baker

I researched flights for Left Coast Crime. I checked my email and had an on-line conversation with my daughter. I wandered over to Facebook and blew an hour. After that, I messed around with some hot tub maintenance. 

Then it seemed like time for coffee so I brewed a pot and read a few articles in The Week.
I dug into the file cabinet looking for an obscure bill from last year to compare with this year. Checked my emails again and answered some questions. Then back to Facebook. And out to check on the hot tub….

All of this while carrying around a fifty-pound sandbag of guilt, knowing I have a big word count I set for today. I can’t seem to force myself to BICHOK this morning. (Butt In Chair, Hands on Keys) Now it’s nearly noon and I’m still in high-speed avoidance behavior. To break the seal (in a little bathroom reference) and get the words “flowing,” I’ve finally settled into writing this blog.

I’m galloping through the first draft of a novel in a genre I’ve never tried before. And I’m using a different writing method than I’m used to. This experiment coincided with NaNoWriMo, so I’m unofficially participating in that. Instead of a goal of 50,000 words in November, I’m shooting for a first draft of this book, more like 75-80K. I hit 40 thousand of those puppies yesterday. That’s not bad progress for 18 days.

And that’s my problem. I’m battling that “Hey, you rock” high with the “Don’t quit ‘til you’re done” attitude. I spent a lot of years as a Lutheran and I am from Nebraska, so you can see where the work ethic/guilt part might be pretty ingrained. Seriously, though, what would be so wrong with taking one day off? Sure, I know Stephen King never takes a day off, but I’m no Stephen King.

Then I happened along a TED Talk on something called grit. (Yes, I stumbled upon it while browsing in Facebook, why do you ask?) According to Angela Lee Duckworth, grit is what causes success. It’s not how smart we are or how talented we are, but it’s the ability to dig in and keep working toward the goal.

I even took the quiz linked to the video. (Well, I had time I was murdering so why not?) If I answered the questions honestly—and I’m not above lying to myself—it turns out I have quite a bit of grit. I might go ahead and agree with that assessment, though. I’m not the most brilliant bulb in the chandelier, nor am I gifted with great heaps of writing talent. But I’ve been toiling away on writing books for a very long time.

I haven’t achieved success in terms of John Grisham or Nora Roberts but I’m continuing to make progress in my writing career. I’m becoming a better writer with each book I turn out and I’m learning more and more all the time. To stick with this crazy business and challenging career, it takes grit, not to mention a loose grasp on sanity.

So now, duly inspired and my fingers well oiled, I am shutting off Facebook, turning away from email and setting up in the blocks for today’s word count race.

When you hit a writing funk, what fires up your gritty nature and sends you back to the keyboard?


Keith Raffel said...

Go get 'em, Shannon!

Beth Groundwater said...

To answer your question, Shannon, a nice gritty motivational post like yours. Good luck on today's and the rest of the month's word count!