A memory from my MFA program: The professor looking around the room at our small group of nine and proclaiming: “You’re all talented. It’s impossible to know which ones of you will make it into print. The ones who make it will have tenacity. They won’t let anything stop them.”
His words thrilled me. If tenacity were The Magic Factor, I actually stood a chance. I didn’t believe I was especially talented, but I burned with ambition and as long as I could keep that fire stoked, I was certain I could keep writing and submitting work.
Fast forward two decades: As a writing instructor and coach, it is my joy to witness students and clients breaking into print each year. And like my professor from days of yore, I hypothesize which factors are The Magic Factors of Success. Tenacity is one, for sure. But other it factors include a tenacity-on-steroids mentality of “Whatever it Takes,” a commitment to learning the craft, a willingness to listen to notes and USE THEM, and a decision to bet on yourself. In the coming week, as we head into the 2019, I’ll be writing about each of these factors.
Whatever it Takes
Yes, occasionally a writer sails into publication. (Annoying!) But for the most part, successful writers are ones who’ve decided to DO THIS whatever it takes. I can sense when a writer has made this decision. Their eyes telegraph a resolve. Their actions bespeak of that resolve. They solicit feedback and listen to that feedback. They revise. They put in the time. They anticipate rejection and get support to weather it. They expect success, but they do not expect instant success. They are willing to work and they are willing to endure a bruising or two along the way.
Cecilia Aragon is one of my former students who embodies Whatever it Takes. Cecilia would often prompt me to give her harsh and direct critiques, reminding me that she could take it and that she wanted to make her book the best it could be. I wasn’t surprised to receive the news from her this month that her memoir Flying Free: How I Used Math to Overcome Fear and Achieve my Wildest Dreams had been bought in a preempt by Blackstone Publishing. Watch for it in bookstores everywhere in 2020!
Of course, you can’t force a decision or induce resolve. Sometimes, you’re just too early in your project or your career to feel this sort of unwavering determination. Small successes can help though. Take a chance or two–submit your work here and there, do an open mike–and one day soon you might be ready to say, okay, let’s DO THIS. Whatever it takes.
Looking for a writing coach? I’m relaunching my coaching business in the new year and have appointments available on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Learn more or book an appointment by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.