Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet Sacrifice: Consistency is Gold

Organization. Discipline. Consistency. I can already hear you cringe.

These are the most difficult words for a person to hear who is chronically disorganized, sporadic or easily distracted.

Yes, I’m talking about yours truly.

Is it surprising that things are so chaotic when we allow piles of paper to become mountains, relying on our fine memory and intellect (or lack thereof) rather than a well-conceived plan, and working only when we feel inspired? No wonder nothing ever gets done.

Perhaps you dream of a day when you’re in total control, churning out books effortlessly due to your tireless work ethic and flawless writing system? Me too. But rather than dream about, let’s think of a way to make it happen. It all starts with belief, a belief that one day you could be that person.

Consistency is a trait that everyone needs to work on, especially published authors. Challenge yourself to write better novels with each successive work and you will grow along with your writing.

There are plenty of things in our personal lives that can derail us if we let them. The trick is not to make writing more difficult than it already is, or give up when we hit a rough patch.

If you don’t feel like you have enough time to be a writer, give yourself a reality check: you don’t write because you have to, but because you choose to (although some of us self-absorbed neophytes believe that we are chosen). Think of the smiles on people’s faces when they read your novel, and stand in line for you to sign their copy. Writing is not a chore; and if you can’t see past the inherent labor resident in all tasks, how are you supposed to be any good at it?

Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, take action. If you’re truly passionate about writing, engage in it every chance you get. By writing every day, eventually it will come easier. And don’t worry about running out of ideas; by silencing your mind and listening to your inner voice, you’ll be amazed at what begins to surface.

It’s not surprising that our minds take a little while before they’re capable of composing good prose regularly. To a small degree it’s physiological in nature: the human brain needs to form new connections and fire up old ones so that it can operate efficiently. Life experience and repetition also factor in; both of which you have control over. In a nutshell, we shape ourselves into what we choose to be through action, determination and repetition, which can be summarized in one word: consistency.

By consistently working hard, you will learn how to deal with problems as they arise. You will get better at making the most of your time, and by pushing through obstacles, you will gain confidence that you can overcome anything in your path.

You may also find yourself fighting with your spouse or family members who don’t take your new profession seriously. Sadly they cannot see their actions for what they are: sabotage. To them everything’s critical, and up until now, they’ve had no reason to think otherwise. “Sorry, what’s that you’re doing? Writing a novel?” They ask. “You’re just screwing around. That doesn’t take any real effort, does it?”

Welcome to the club. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory. It will take some time before your family learns to respect your writing time. While you may not be able to change their initial perceptions, all is not lost. They can be trained. And bribed. And smacked. (The latter doesn’t always work so well.)

Rather than learning to do things for themselves, people often depend on others out of habit rather than need. You’re a convenient distraction, a selfless servant, and your time didn’t seem valuable until now. Your family must learn to become more self-sufficient. Teach them to honor your time and only engage you when absolutely necessary. Or else.

Once you find your quiet little nook, make your words count. In your reader’s eyes, you’re only as good as your last book. If you consistently give your best effort, you’ll never have to second-guess yourself, and neither will your readers when they fork over their hard-earned cash.

The more consistently you produce, the more consistently your customers will buy your work and recommend it to others. You’ve got a real chance to succeed when you deliver consistent, high-quality results.

When you get right down to it, consistency is gold. The more you produce, the more gold will find its way into your bank account. Instill good habits now; otherwise it will cost you. Be proud and productive, consistent and unyielding. Let your passion inspire others, and they will open their hearts and wallets to you.

And that, my friend, is as good as gold.

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