If It’s a Fad, It’s Not a Lifestyle

A few years back I was getting a check-up at the doctor’s office. Weight-wise, I was not where I wanted to be at that particular moment, and she spoke the truth to me: “You have to do the hard work.” In other words, you aren’t going to lose weight without making the right choices, without being disciplined, without making sacrifices.  No-one can do it for you!

Boy, we hate to think that the things we want require hard work. Let me win the lottery! Surely an agent will discover my talent! World, please. Notice how awesome I am. Make it easy for me!

Ah, no.

You want to get into a top-flight college? Hard work.

You want to write a novel? Hard work.

You want to be a movie star? Hard work.

You want to lose weight? Hard work.

But here’s the difference between something being a fad and being a lifestyle. We all put hard work into particular things at certain times in our lives. I remember a particular diet I was on in 2005. I put in the hard work. I achieved the success I wanted. Then I stopped putting in the hard work. You can imagine the results. My fad faded. And my waistline, well, … yeah.

Same with writing. How many people are enthusiastic to write their first novel? They work and work and possibly even get it done, but when instant world-wide fame isn’t bestowed on them, they move on and never write again.

Hard work is needed. But sustained hard work, over years, without giving up, even in the face of little success or many unpleasant bumps in the road — in other words GRIT – is the only way that your hard work season becomes your hard work lifestyle.

I wasn’t ready to listen to that doctor about a decade ago. But more recently, her words are sinking in.

In 2002, when I started my first great novel, I wasn’t ready to make a lifestyle change and become a writer. I put in a minimal amount of hard work and abandoned it. It took another ten years before I was ready to put in the hard work of being an author for the long haul.

You aren’t going to reach your goals overnight. Or in a month. Or maybe not in a year. But much is achievable with a steady hand on the plow, ignoring the criticism, pushing back the doubts, and keeping your eyes straight ahead on what’s important to you.

Only you can do the hard work.

Are you ready for it?

Making Peace with Increments

Successful discipline in any field is the art of making peace with increments.  Whether writing a novel, losing weight, learning guitar, studying for a master’s, or driving in a traffic jam heading home on a Friday afternoon, if you can come to terms with where you are at, you’re on the right track to success.

Humans are famously impatient. We like results. Like yesterday. How many diets go awry because tangible progress has slowed or because discouragement sets in thinking how much further the journey is?

How many stalled novels have bit the dustpan of obscurity over the years because 4000 words seems much too far away from 50,000 words?

But if we can make peace with increments, rejoice in the small, be happy in the seemingly insignificant, EVENTUALLY, your goal will be reached.

Guitar. I’m not a musician, but I love music and I have always loved writing lyrics and thinking up melodies to match.  About fifteen years ago, I watched a friend learn guitar. I was intrigued. I asked him what he did. He said he practiced for thirty minutes everyday for six months. At the end of those six months, while he wasn’t Eddie Van Halen, he was capable of playing chords fluently and even joined the worship band at his church. I was impressed, so I said to myself that I would try it. I got a basic guitar book, a guitar, and  cleared aside 30 minutes a day, and I started playing. It was painful, figuratively on my ears and literally on my fingertips. But as the daily thirty minutes went by, my fingers started to develop callouses and my chords started to develop some attributes of musicology. Six months later, he was right. I could play the guitar. I plateaued at that point because I achieved what I wanted. I wanted to play enough guitar to help me write songs. Success. And I owe it all to increments.

Novels. I’ve said this before. I was a failed novelist who never wrote a novel. I always wanted to write one, and about seventeen years ago I finally started. I wrote three pages, destroyed it all, cried inside, and abandoned all hope of ever writing a novel. About ten years later, through my renewed interest in writing prompted by a new pursuit in drama, I tried again. I wrote little by little. I tried to enjoy the process. I tried to understand the long-haul mentality. I enjoyed where I was in the process.  I counted every word every day. Literally. And before I knew it, I had written a 61,000 word novel.  Then I tried to write another. Now I’ve written eight, and I’m still at the early point in my journey.

Whatever you are trying to accomplish, don’t get stuck lamenting how far away the finish line is.  But DO focus on two things:

  1. The daily increments. Have you done what you can today in your journey? If you can say ‘yes’ to that, then be proud of yourself.
  2. Look back at progress. Look where the increments of the last two weeks have taken you. The last month. The last two months. Remind yourself of where you came from and let it reaffirm that you are on the right track.

I write this for myself, because I’m on other journeys as I write. Perhaps I’ll share another time. But I hope this can be a small reminder to those on a journey of accomplishment that if you make peace in the increments, you will find your way.

The Door is Open. Walk through it.

The door is open. Walk through it.

door open

No one is going to do it for you. You have to walk through it yourself.

What’s holding you back? Doubt?

Success isn’t guaranteed. You might be staring at that open door for the rest of your life, but there is one thing that’s for certain. You’ll never walk through it if you don’t move yourself in that direction.

What’s holding you back? Failure?

There will be many missteps along the way. They may be painful. They may be discouraging. They may make you think that the door was never meant for you in the first place; that you’ll never be good enough.

But before you will ever be good enough, you have to be strong enough. Strong enough to shake off the critical glances from others, gleaning from the results that will make your incremental movement slightly better next time. Strong enough that there are others who may enter the through the door before you. Strong enough to be okay with that.

If the door is really important to you, if the passion is real, if you have built the proper foundation for the door to be feasible, if you’re going to keep going whether the door ever becomes a reality, then this is for you.

Move towards it.

Strive.

Keep your eyes on the bright light, the goal, the magnet pulling you in. Give in to it. Fixate upon it.

The door is open. Walk through it.

It’s yours and only yours. Stand up and fulfill your call.

The Sasse Food Challenge: How to Motivate Actors

It’s become somewhat of a ritual for me over the past few years: The Sasse Food Challenge.

It’s a way to, hopefully, motivate my actors to memorize their lines by the date I want them memorized.

On the day of the challenge, if they ALL know their lines, approximately 95% or so, then I will invite them to my house to cook for them. I’ll cook something special like my gourmet pizzas (stuffed crust with toasted garlic and homemade spicy sausage, for example) or Mexican (homemade Enchiladas with my own salsa and pickled peppers.)

Usually food speaks greatly to them. In my many years of offering the challenge, my group only missed the challenge twice. It doesn’t get them off the hook – they still need to memorize their lines, but it does take away a great and fun time of bonding with the cast.

Monday is our challenge this week. They had previously did very well in memorizing Act I, but tomorrow is Act II, and if they can nail it, they’ll have their food on April 10.

We’ll also play some drama games and enjoy some good dessert. I hope they make it. Not because they’ll know their lines on time, but because I like to cook for them. It’s enjoyable,  and I always look forward to it.

So that’s how I motivate my actors. What do you do?