Being a successful writer is a lot like being a successful anything. One must, of course, at least possess some talent. But, talent alone isn’t enough. Talent is like a vein of gold buried deep in a mountain of granite. Unless someone works really hard, the gold is worthless. Someone needs to put in the sweat equity to mine that gold, refine it, and transform it into something the world finds valuable.
Character is important, because character is what makes us get up earlier or stay up later than the next guy. Character is what will help us focus, what allows us to be teachable, and what presses us to finish what we start.
But, yesterday, I did a bit more thinking about what component truly stands out when it comes to being a successful author. The word that came to me is obsession.
It came to me after my third run through a Gears of War 4 (video game) level, where I kept earning two and a half stars. A HALF star? What IS THAT? WHO AWARDS HALF A FREAKING STAR?
I don’t know about you guys, but my absolute FAVORITE show in the universe is The Big Bang Theory, and Sheldon (an OCD/likely autistic physicist) is my favorite character. I find myself laughing and yelling, That is SO me!
From rearranging the couch cushions to the “right” order, to always walking the same route when I go to the park, I have this weird tendency to need and follow patterns in life.
I begin my days exactly the same way every morning, and, if events push me out of this routine, I get a tad twitchy. It’s also why I hate going grocery shopping with my husband. He shops in the wrong order.
NO! You can’t start shopping on THAT side of the store! Are you mad? Who starts shopping in the bakery?
This past weekend was, of course, Easter, but was also our wedding anniversary. To celebrate? Non-stop Gears of War 4 marathon.
I have to be careful with video games. I can’t stop until the game is “finished,” and even then, I only finished on Normal Level. Now we need to beat the game (finish) on Hardcore and Insane. Oh, and there are still clues out there we haven’t found. And, have I mentioned that, on most levels, we only earned one or two stars? They don’t match. They all need to be THREE stars.
Okay, at least all be two stars. Make them match.
At the gym, the Stair Monster is trying to kill me. If I set it to do a 25 minute workout, I will make it 51 floors. FIFTY-ONE? No, needs to be at least 55…but then it’s a 27 minute workout. Crap. Okay, we’ll go to 30 minutes make it even-Stephen. 64 floors? ACK, Okay, just to 65 floors…31 minutes? So 60 minutes later and 121 FLOORS….
STOP ME BEFORE I KILL MYSELF!
While my obsessive nature isn’t anything that requires therapy or medication (yet) I do think it’s a quality that helps me do what I do.
When we create characters in a novel, we must remember that their best quality always has a dark side. The loyal, tender-hearted protagonist, can also be a naive fool easily taken advantage of. The hard-driven Type A is a great leader and achiever, but often tramples over the feelings of others.
All of us have a dark side. Our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses.
My dark side is I can (if unchecked) be controlling, OCD, and obsessive. I frequently find myself worn out from doing all the housework, because, well…YOU CAN’T FOLD TOWELS THAT WAY! WHO FOLDS TOWELS THAT WAY? WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES?
I’ve had to learn to trust others, delegate, let go of having things my way, and just focus on my responsibilities. Appreciate that others can do things differently and that’s okay.
*left eye twitches*
Really, it is. I’ll be fine.
Being obsessive is a good thing, but the dark side of being obsessive manifests as manipulating, bullying and controlling others. I would love to say I have never been guilty of any of that *whistles innocently* but, what can I say? I’m a recovering “first/older sibling.” I’m working on it.
Yet, when I think about what’s really helped me persevere as a writer, I know I have my obsessive nature to thank. Ten years ago, when I was skewered in my first critique, I worked tirelessly until my work was so good, no one had anything but praise. If I didn’t understand something, I didn’t read a book on the topic, I read all books on the topic.
We won’t even mention my scrapbooking phase.
Obsession is part of why I blog. I heard about the 10,000 hour rule (the magic mark that separates the master from the apprentice) and I’m all about efficiency. Become a better, cleaner, faster writer and hit 10,000 hours sooner.
I think all of us require the fire of obsession to do well in this business (any business). We just need to remember three key things:
1. The world does not reward perfection; it rewards finishers.
2. Learn to delegate. Let your family be part of your success. Let your husband fold the clothes, you can
refold them later keep writing.
3. The numbers on the Stair Master WILL NEVER BE EVEN AT THE SAME TIME. I’ve tried. Ellipticals and treadmills have also been infiltrated. I think Al Qaeda is behind the calorie counter.
For those who want a laugh, there is a small dose of Sheldon in this clip. I apologize ahead of time that it is only 1:29 minutes. REALLY, PEOPLE?:
What you do think? Are Stair Masters evil? Are you a bit obsessive? What are your obsessions? Could you see a little (or a lot) of yourself in Sheldon? Do you have to be careful with your obsessive nature? Do you drive your family nuts with your obsessive tendencies? What do you do to keep the obsession channeled to your writing?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
Note: Due to Easter holiday/anniversary…okay video game marathon, I will be choosing March’s winner later in the week, so stay tuned.