My name is Mike and I love stories. Okay, my secret is out. I confess. The truth is told. I LOVE STORIES!. Always have, always will. Reading them, thinking about them, making them up, telling them, and now writing them down to try and sell. Stories and the ability to tell stories help define us as human beings.
In my sports coaching life, we used the philosophical tenets of the Four P’s—purpose, pride, passion, and persistence—to become a better program. We called the Four P’s the bricks of our sports program’s foundation. I think these four things can be applied to about any endeavor, including writing, at any age, place, or time.
So, as we head into the heart of winter, fight our way through NaNoWriMo, and/or work keep the writing demons at bay, how about a little pep talk to light the creative fire?
“Commitment to Excellence” – Organizational theme of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders
The story needs a purpose. The story needs to know what it is and where it is going. Those ideas rattling about in one’s head are just random flashes of complete brilliance until purpose and direction are applied to them. Use the four-part story structure (Inciting Incident, First Act Turn, Second Act Turn, and Ending) to help establish a structure to story ideas.
Move your story forward with a purpose and logically by using cause and effect. Simply put, move the story along by setting up problems and solving them. Logical, meaning to stay within the story logic you have created. Example: Your cannibalistic pink fluffy bunny attacking and eating a colony of chocolate bunnies may not be logical in the real world, but since you have created a dystopian world of warring inanimate bunny factions, it works.
“I wanna have pride like my momma has, and not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad.” -The Perfect Space, The Avett Brothers
Everybody wants to do well, everybody wants to be a winner, everyone wants to write a winning book. I doubt anyone who writes wakes up every morning and says, “Today, I am going to write the crappiest stuff I can possibly write.” Pride in one’s work and pride in one’s reputation is essential. Quality comes from drive and drive is fueled by pride. Taking pride in the product, either on the field or on the page, takes commitment, drive, and dedication. There is no way around doing the work.
Hard work is the magic.
“The path to such success is punctuated by failure, consolidation, and renewed effort. It is wet with the tears of emotional breakdown. Personal reconstruction is art. Discovering one’s self, one’s talent and ambition and learning how to express it is a creative process so may not be rushed.” -Mark Twight, Gym Jones
A writer’s passion molds creative ideas into stories. Emotional involvement, enthusiasm, and intensity are all part of creative passion. Love what you do, love what you attempt and love those ideas bouncing about in your head. Make them the best they can be.
Passion sustains the writer through and over the walls of doubt. Face it, writing is tough. Every locked door you open leads to three more locked doors that you must find a way to enter. Doubt lurks over every writer’s shoulder, laughing at your sentences, mocking your manuscripts and snickering each time a rejection arrives. The emotional involvement and the passion of the writer help keep doubt at bay, sitting on its stool in the corner.
“The skills and confidence spawned by failure allowed me to progress instead of repeating myself, and personal evolution is the ultimate goal of my participation in sport.” -Mark Twight, Gym Jones
“Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it.” -Neil Gaiman
Persistence. Be prepared to fail. Be prepared to take risks and challenges. Be prepared to take a face plant in front of the huge, boisterous crowd. If you expose yourself and your writing to the scrutiny of the publishing business, you will get kicked in the teeth. When this happens, get up off the floor ASAP. Don’t give up. Never forget there is somebody out there is waiting to read your book. Show up every day, plant the buttocks squarely in front of the page and tell your story one word at a time. Hard work truly is the magic. Simple in theory, but it’s so hard in practice.
Like the Fifth Beatle, there is a Fifth “P”…Performance.
Performance is the culmination of everything. It is the Friday night football game. It is the pitch session, the query process, the submission, and, hopefully, the publication of your book. All the work, all the preparation, and now it is game time. Take a deep breath, remember your lines and walk into the spotlight. Time to perform.
I will leave you with one of the great life quotations from the sports world. It is the one quote I put on everything from my laboratory office wall to my writing desk, to the locker room, to playbooks and condition manuals. Everywhere. It is from legendary NFL football coach Vince Lombardi. This quote probably sums up everything I presented above. (I guess I could have just posted this quote and saved you a lot of reading, but what fun is that?)
Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in awhile; you don’t do the right thing once in awhile; you do things right all the time. Winning is a habit.” – Vince Lombardi
Keep writing stories. We can never have too many good stories.
And above all else, write YOUR story. The world needs it.