Alex is off in South Carolina for a week of riding with some of his cycling buddies and I’m sure while he’s there, he’ll stoke up with some grits for breakfast. But the kind of grit I’m looking for isn’t something we can eat, but it’s something we all need.
In her bestseller, Grit, Angela Duckworth describes it as the combination of passion and perseverance that allows us to stick with a project, however difficult, the way a barnacle sticks to a boat. Grit is the inner strength that drives us to keep going long after other people have quit.
Luckily, like many other inner qualities, grit is like a muscle — the more we use it, the stronger it gets and the stronger it gets, the more we tend to use it and the more of it we develop. On his wonderful web site (http://jamesclear.com/),* James, a motivational coach, featured a post called “Grit: A Brief Guide on Building Mental Toughness,” describing how to cultivate the grit and mental stamina we all need:
1) Define what grit means for you: We all have different life and work targets we want to aim for and hit. For some of us, grit means boosting physical strength. As writers, our grit goals usually involve pushing through a first draft or a major revision or sticking with our
submission strategy in the face of rejection. Whatever goal we’re going after, it’s about finding the staying power to push to completion.
2) Build grit through small wins: As James puts it, “So often we think that grit is about how we respond to extreme situations, but what about everyday circumstances? Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop.” The simplest way to develop grit, notes James, is to exercise your grit muscle every day. If you do sit-ups as part of your daily exercise routine, then choose to do ten when you could leave it at nine.
If you usually write for an hour a day, add on an extra 10 or 15 minutes. If you come up with a paragraph you like, fine-tune it one more time instead of leaving it as is. “Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways,” says James, “that you have the guts to get in the
ring and do battle with life.”
3) Build positive habits: “Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over again. Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent.” Habit is about doing the things you want and need to do consistently — it’s about daily practice.
James ends his post with a note that’s tailor-made for us: “Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.” Of course, not every successful writer sticks to a daily regimen — my wonderful friend Linda just sent me a video on Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, who doesn’t. But for many of us, making writing a daily habit is a great way to get grit fit. Write on!
- Be sure to check out Jame Clear’s motivational-rich web site!