Faking True Grit

True Grit movie posterI am surrounded by exceptional women. Within my own writing group and among the spunky Wordbitches out west, I see plenty of examples of women who have achieved truly amazing goals. They have completed novels; they have run marathons; they have travelled the world; they have borne children.

So when I read the article about “true grit” in the April edition of Women’s Health magazine, I immediately thought about my writing girls. They all have what this article calls true grit, or the drive, persistence and fortitude required to set a goal and take all the steps necessary to achieve it.

What is true grit? If you’re a marathoner, it’s what keeps your legs pumping when all you want to do is collapse into a puddle of goo. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s what keeps you working when everyone says your idea is crazy. If you’re a writer, it’s what keeps you picking up your pen or starting up your computer everyday and wrestling with those voices in your head.

How do you know if you have true grit? You can read more about it in the article in Women’s Health. You can also take the Grit Test.

Writing a novel is an apt illustration of true grit because it is a long-haul kind of a project that requires passion, motivation, skill and persistence to finish.

Yes, I took the grit test. As I suspected, according to the experts, I don’t have true grit. (No surprise there. I’m notorious for starting up new projects and abandoning others.)

So what does that mean? That I’ll never finish a novel/paint the bathroom/start my own business? Since true grit, or stick-to-it-iveness, is a trait rather than a skill, I imagine experts would tell me not to quit my day job.

But I won’t despair. If I don’t have true grit, and I can’t learn it, I’m going to fake it. Here’s how:

Define my goals: And by this I mean both my long-term goal (e.g. to publish my novel by January 2013) and my performance goals (the milestones I need to reach to achieve my long-term goal, like writing 1,000 words each day for the next 6 months).

Visualize my finish line: Okay, it’s a bit on the woo-woo side of things, but picturing myself signing a contract with my newly minted agent or drawing an audience at a reading can’t hurt!

Commit to my goals: I have to make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Yes, SMART. And I have to work towards those goals like it was my job!

Practice, practice, practice: This means reading and writing constantly, even if I’m not working towards for a day’s specific word count. All writing counts, because it keeps me in the habit of writing daily.

Don’t stress about setbacks: If I miss a day, or there’s a snag along the way, all I can do is keep going. How I bounce back from setbacks is just as important as achieving success.

Lean on my support group: They’re the ones who motivate, inspire, cajole, harangue, entertain and teach me. I will look to their awesome examples to keep me progressing towards my goal.

Hmm, goal-setting, visualization exercises, commitment, hard work, and support. You know what? That looks pretty close to true grit to me.



Filed under Motivation

8 responses to “Faking True Grit

  1. Great post Maria! Fake it till u make it! I always have problems with the stressing about setbacks. That’s one I need to work on. You’ve got grit, girl!

    • Maria McDonald

      I know–it can be hard not to beat yourself up when you hit a wall. (Or when you mix metaphors…ahem.) Here’s to building up our gritty fortitude, or faking it until we achieve our dreams.

  2. bjas

    Love this post! And everything always feels better when we restless writers regroup. Kinda like, a therapy session. True grit, we got it! Hey, so is this movie any good? I haven’t seen it yet…..

    • Maria McDonald

      Our meetings are therapy, motivation, encouragement, and venting. They make each of our solitary journeys that much more bearable.

  3. Bob Mayer

    Ah grit. I talk about that in Warrior Writer. It’s the essence of success.
    Science has too long focused on intelligence & talent as determiners of success. And it’s not. The key to success is to set a specific long-term goal and to do whatever it takes until the goal has been achieved. That’s called Grit (defined as courage and resolve; strength of character).
    Duckworth did a study in 2008 at West Point: Grit was the determining factor of Beast Barracks success. My plebe squad had five members. Three of them didn’t make it to Christmas the first year. They weren’t bad people, they just didn’t really WANT it. Same in Special Forces training. There are those who go into because they want to wear a green beret. They don’t make it. The ones who make it want to BE a green beret. There are those who want the lifestyle of ‘author’. They never get published. The ones who want to BE an author make it.
    Way back in 1869, Stephen Jay Galton wrote a book titled: Hereditary Genius: he found that ‘ability combined with zeal & capacity for hard work’ trumps talent.
    Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up.” Again and again.

  4. Just found this blog and I’m so excited. I have followed Lori’s personal blog for a while, but have been looking for a “writer’s” blog. You three are fabulous.

    But I’m here to tell you I’ve run marathons, written novels and given birth and I STILL don’t feel like I have True Grit.

    I play this game with myself where I believe I am an unmotivated underachiever and then I WIN THE GAME.

    So I’ve just subscribed to your blog and am going to use you ladies for inspiration.

    You don’t mind being used right? In a good way? I promise to respect you after each post.

  5. Thanks for the shout out, Maria.

    I’m not sure I have True Grit, although I’m not afraid to get dirty. What I am gifted at, however, is visualization. Yup, I’ve been practicing my TED speech for a while.

    Putting the cart in front of the horse? That’s me.

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