For years, I’ve watched a ton of high-ability students underachieve in my science classes. They aspire to go to Ivy League colleges, become six-figure wage earners, and park their fancy cars inside fancy garages attached to fancy homes. And yet they don’t have the wherewithal to sit down and memorize ten facts that would yield an A on a test. Yes, I know education is not about teaching to a test, and yes, I know that rote memorization is a “no-no,” but let’s face it. Without that skill, most of us would have never graduated college.
Memorization is not the easiest thing. You have to work at it, sometimes repeating the same fact over and over a hundred times until you know it. That takes grit–essentially the gumption to not give up, keep working hard, and push until you win the prize.
The same issue strikes would-be authors as they try to muddle their way through a novel. I’ve seen so many people give up on a story after a few bad critiques. Or, they’ve self-published drivel rather than revising tirelessly to make their book great.
I love this TED talk from Angela Duckworth, defining the concept of grit. Every time I et discouraged, I listen again. It inspires me to remember that if I work hard–really hard–at improving my craft, I will be published one day.
She makes the point that:
there is really no domain of expertise where the world class performers have put in fewer than ten years of consistent, deliberate practice to get where they are.
Well, I’ve been writing on and off for about six years, so I guess that means I’ve got four more to go before I’ll reap the benefits of my efforts.
What that tells me is to keep at it. Keep trying, keep working hard, keep pushing past rejection to make myself better.
Aspiring authors, are you with me? Push up your sleeves and get some grit. Read educational books, join critique groups, and keep writing. We’ll get there 🙂