Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Making the Cut

Last night I was at a networking meeting of local business people and learned a wonderful lesson. The person sharing is about 2 years older than me and he was sharing the story of how he was able to build a strong insurance business. He said

Understand the gatekeeper you need to work with.

This was a great lesson-and one I'm going to blog on Friday-but I really learned came in the form of a book I got at the meeting. I was helping at the sign in table and was perusing the books that were laying there. I am an avid reader and try to keep up on as much as possible in business development and marketing. I am always watching for new books to help build my business and share nuggets of wisdom with my blog readers and my readers.

As I was driving to the meeting yesterday I was thinking through the recent growth of Writing Career Coach, my expansion to the national level with my Writing page, and the growth of my speaking. Despite the success I'm having, I knew there was something I wasn't quite getting. It teased at the edge of my consciousness, but it's full understanding alluded me.

I flipped open the book and read the analogy between success and trying out for a sports team:

"Let me illustrate what I am saying in another way: Every little child in your town gets to play in the 'recreational league.' This is the sports association where nobody cares who wins and everybody gets to participate in every inning. MOst of the ladies like that. They think that is the way it is supposed to be. 'Little Johnny' always gets to play, nobody's feelings get hurt, and all the mommies are happy...

"But then there is the traveling team...

"This is the team that plays in a league where they actually play the games to win...This is the level at which skill and ability become prerequisites for acceptance to the team. However, the mommies whose children did not make the traveling team might get upset that their kids cannot go. They might suddenly switich over into thinking that 'self-esteem issues' are more important than qualifications. But the truth of the matter is that the parent of one who did not make the traveling team needs to ask himself why his child was disqualified. Did he practice as much as the others? Is the child eating right? Is he getting enough sleep? Is the child actually gifted for the sport? You see, everybody can play on the recreational league, but a child needs to meet certain criteria in order to be able to play on the traveling team." [From Divine Provision By Dan Stratton with Rich Vermillion. Pg. 161, Emphasis the Authors]

So, it's tough love time. We all want to be published authors but are we really willing to take the steps necessary to make the Traveling Team [published]. Or do we want to have the feel-good comfort of the recreational team. Are you working at your craft until you are exhausted? Are you writing again and again until the sentence is right? Are you taking the rejections and pushing through anyway? Are you writing one book and then immediately starting another? Are you willing to accept that you don't know everything? Are you spending more time explaining why your craft is great than learning how to make it better?

It is time for writers to bring their craft up a level. Some things are subjective, and writing is one of them, however that does not mean there are no standards. Aspiring writers need to begin to accept harsh realities, and the hard work that comes with them. There is NO easy way to get published. It requires countless hours of study and hard work.

In high school I knew my parent had no money to send me to college and that they couldn't afford to take out parent loans. I knew the only way I could get my degree was hard work. From 10th grade on I took the hardest classes, I studied, I earned a Varsity letter in Gymnastics for two years, I worked 20 hours a week and graduated in the top 15% of my class. I scored in the 96th percentile on the ACT.

And I worked even harder in college.

I didn't earn a full ride so each year I had to prove myself again so that I could earn new scholarships and renew those I had. Every 10 week quarter I had to prove myself all over again. When I graduated college I had a 3.903 GPA. I had worked 20+ hrs all through college, 40hours in the summer. I had taken beyond full time so I could get out in 4 years. I had been in the honors college so I had to take honors courses. I was 1 course away from having a dual minor. My days began at 5:45am and ended at 11pm. On weekends I studied from 8-5 Saturday, 1-8pm on Sunday.

I was doggedly determined to reach my goal on my time frame.

What would happen if we attacked our writing dream with the ferocity we pursue other things?

Don't make kids, committments or jobs your excuse. If we're going to make the cut as writers our pursuit of that goal has to be our singular focus. We can't relax.

That is how you make the cut.

Whether you get there or not depends solely on you.

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at
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Dona Watson said...

Great post, Tiffany! I feel duly chastened and am heading back to my keyboard now. :) Seriously, your post sums it up well. To get to the next level, one really has to push extra hard--not only should we treat our writing as a business, but then we need to go beyond that with extra effort. This inspiration makes for a great beginning to my day. Thanks.

P.S. I posted a link to your post on my Facebook wall. Good stuff!

Jody Hedlund said...

Wow, Tiff! Great pep talk! I needed that today! I'm bogged down and feeling like I'm struggling to get everything done. I will have those chapters to you by the end of the day. And my last chapter is almost done, so I'll be sending that too. Back to work!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Tiffany -

Too many folks dabble at writing. This was a wake-up call for me. If I want to achieve my goals, I need to get on that computer and write.

Thanks. I needed that.

Susan :)