|Charles Portis' True Grit.|
“You must pay for everything in this world one way and another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it.” Mattie Ross― Charles Portis, True Grit
Growing up in the olden days, there was one television in the house, and that television played whatever my dad wanted to watch. His taste ran to westerns, which made me a de facto expert on all things Yakima Canutt, John Wayne, and John Ford. In one of my favorite westerns, Mattie Ross is looking for a man with ‘true grit.’
I’m sure a lot of us have looked back on a time in our lives and thought, “How did I manage?” I once wrote 30k words in 10 days to meet a deadline. If you had asked me previously if I could write that many words, I would have replied with a resounding ‘no’. I’m a notoriously slow writer. But that’s the thing about grit, you don’t have to be born with it, sometimes you can earn a little grit along the way.
I’m incredibly excited about kicking off this year’s Speedbo challenge at Seekerville!
Thirty days is a wonderful amount of time to add something new to your life, or to subtract something negative from your life. Much like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Speedbo is a chance to add words without the interference of that pesky internal editor.
Which brings us to the question: Why Challenge Yourself as a Writer? Turns out, there’s only one way to earn that grit – you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You don’t know what you’re capable of doing until you try. (Or until you’re forced. Whatever.)
I became a writer, in part, because of the opera. I was doing some secretarial work for the director of the local opera, and he asked if I’d participate in The Barber of Seville because they needed a non-singing performer at the last minute. It was the most traumatic experience of my life. I don’t read music and I don’t perform. The director yelled at everyone in a foreign language—especially the non-singing, non-performing people. There was a choreographed fight scene. The first night we had an audience and I SAW the crowd, I had an actual out-of-body experience. For the longest split second of my life, NONE OF MY MUSCLES WORKED. About that time, I realized the lead performer was frantically signaling that his wig had come loose. I had to *think on my feet*. A difficult task considering the thinking part of brain had ceased functioning.
After that, I figured I could do just about anything. If you can get yelled at in Chinese and still learn a strobe-lit fight scene, participate in an opera when you can’t sing or read music, and replace a wig on stage in front of several hundred people while having a mental collapse, nothing else seems that difficult. That’s why it’s good to challenge yourself.
When you’re challenging yourself – here are some things to consider.
This is easy. Speedbo is the month of March. Deadline set!
Make your goals specific and attainable, but not so difficult that you’re discouraged. Stretch, but don’t try and do the splits on day one. Maybe have three days of regular writing, and push yourself to write double the words on day four.
Don’t forget to refill your words! Read outside your genre, challenge yourself to read a classic, re-read your favorite book from childhood and remember why you wanted to become a writer in the first place.
Your un-edited words are probably better than you think. Being a productive writer means accepting that you’re not perfect. Do you remember the last perfect book you read? Of course you don’t! Writers who strive for perfection never finish. Give yourself permission to be a good writer, not a perfect writer.
"People often ask me what it takes to be a good writer. The short answer? I don’t know. The slightly longer answer? I don’t know, and I don’t care." Jeff Goins
Step Outside the Box:
If you normally write serious, Russian prose, challenge yourself to add some humor. If you normally write comedy, challenge yourself to add some gravitas. Shake it up!
Tell people what you’re going to do, and then do that thing. Unashamedly post your amazing accomplishments on Facebook.
Add by Subtracting:
Give yourself a day off. Have a day where you write ZERO words. Watch terrible television and eat ice cream. Pretend the zombie apocalypse is happening and there’s no internet, no telephone, no television and you can only eat what’s in the pantry. Pick the 10 people you’d want to survive the zombie apocalypse. Pick the 10 people you’d sacrifice. Sleep with your head at the foot of the bed. Do anything *BUT* write or even think about writing.
This is a tough business. Writing is difficult. If you achieve your goals, give yourself a treat! Take a walk, buy a book, or schedule some time with other writers. This business operates on criticism; give yourself a little love once in a while.
We need to challenge ourselves because, as Mattie reminds us, nothing in this life is free, and folks don’t just fall up the mountain. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.
What is one thing that you did, that you never thought you could do? Leave a comment below for a chance to win one of three copies of A Temporary Family! And since this is day 1 of Speedbo, feel free to share your gritty goals for March!
“I only take one step at a time. That's why I was given two feet.” Ranger LeBoeuf, True Grit, by Charles Portis
A Temporary Family
When Tilly Hargreaves and her three nieces are stranded at his small stagecoach station in an abandoned town and threatened by outlaws, Nolan West must protect them. And the only way he can do that is by pretending he's married to Tilly. But can the former soldier, whose only wish is for solitude, stop himself from growing attached to his temporary family?
Tilly knows the charade is necessary to keep her and the girls safe, but now her heart is in danger. The longer she pretends the stoic station agent is her husband, the more genuine their union feels. Nolan believes he's better off alone, but Tilly's certain that if he'd only open his heart to his make-believe family, he'd want to claim them as his for real.
Sherri Shackelford is an award-winning author of inspirational, Christian romance novels for Harlequin/HarperCollins Publishers.
A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. She doesn't live on the prairie, but she can see the plains from her house. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.