Let’s Talk: Grit as a Writer

Grit. This word keeps popping up all around me lately. The idea has been around a looooong time, but for some reason grit has become the little bell dinging in my ear like a wake up alarm.

What is grit? Well, Merriam-Webster says:

: firmness of mind or spirit :  unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger

Or dictionary.com

firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck:

Here’s what Angela Lee Duckworth has to say about grit:

Have you ever bought a car and suddenly you see the same exact car everywhere? Well, grit is like that car. It piqued my interest one day, and now I keep hearing it and seeing it everywhere.

Grit, in my mind, is a component of perseverance, defined at dictionary.com:

steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc.,especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Do we have a “which came first” philosophical question here? Do I have to have grit to persevere, or does perseverance create grit? If I lack grit, does that mean I’m not able to persevere and succeed?

Before we get bogged down in endless questions like this, I think we need to step back and really think about the basics of perseverance, grit, and all those related traits of endurance and hard work.

At its most basic, this is grit: enduring, hard-working, persistent focus on an end goal.

Grit has very little (and closer to nothing) to do with intelligence or talent but everything to do with a willingness to work hard to achieve a goal despite what anyone says about your talent or intellect.

I guess the reason it has stuck in my head so much lately is because I feel like “grit” describes what I have when something is truly important to me.

I got good grades in school and am proficient at a lot of different things, but I have ALWAYS equated my ability to perform to hard work as opposed to intelligence.

I’ve rarely considered myself highly intelligent, because everything I am good at, or becoming good at, or working toward mastering has been achieved by hard work, persistence, resilience, self control, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

How can we encourage grit in ourselves? And if you’re a parent like me, how can we encourage grit in our kids?

This is the question, the point in Ms. Duckworth’s talk where she stopped. One thing she pointed out struck me as the basic answer, but maybe it’s not that simple. She said,

Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.

Make commitments and follow through on them. Do not make commitments lightly. Do not rely on your talent alone to carry you through. Everything in life will have set-backs and unwelcome surprises, but if you can approach these with commitment and a desire to learn from mistakes then grit will grow in you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes can help us learn and grow and strengthen. Shying away from difficult things is a lack of grit. Do hard things to grow your grit.

Making mistakes is not an indication of stupidity or low IQ, but learning from them and growing despite the odds is a sure sign of grit. Strive for excellence not perfection. Here’s an article from Forbes that goes into some more detail: 5 Characteristics of Grit

Another thing Ms. Duckworth brought up, which I’d actually just heard about on a podcast earlier in the morning is Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. That is a book that is definitely on my TBR.

The podcast I was listening to was Ashley Scott Meyer’s Selling Your Screenplay Ep 078 with Corey Mandell where they discussed creative integration and the importance of developing intuitive writing skills when you are a conceptual writer and vice versa.

Corey Mandell explained it this way:

So the basic idea is that there are two creative muscles or two processes for writing, the conceptual and the intuitive, and almost every writer whom I’ve worked with is more naturally wired one way or the other way as a writer. So I’ll divide people simply into conceptual writers and intuitive writers.

And now you’re probably wondering how this all relates back to grit. Well, that’s the thing. If you write and write and write but never get any better, never learn and grow from mistakes, and never make a living off your writing, you’re more likely to give up.

That is, unless you’ve got grit to strengthen your perseverance.

If you feel like you’re constantly coming up against a wall, there is a futility that grows inside making any obstacle look ten times worse than it actually is. If you don’t have your sights on that end goal, perseverance might peter out without the force of grit.

I think it can be likened to a pure determination to push forward and not give up while also having a humble ability to learn from past mistakes.

And here’s a bit of where Dweck’s book Mindset comes into play. Do you believe there is only fixed mindset (w/o a given talent and practice in that talent you will not improve), or do you accept there is a growth mindset (w/determination to learn various skill sets through dedicated practice to improve)?

Corey Mandell broke growth mindset down like this:

…the growth mindset says that everything can be broken down to skill sets. And one can learn those skill sets through dedicated practice. So one can consistently get better and better and better at anything if they understand dedicated practice and that process.

He applied this to MIND not physical talent growth. And this growth mindset parallels the idea of grit so well, because the two have interwoven threads of hard work, diligence, and practice to create positive outcome.

Since I’m in this writing gig for the long haul, I can’t think of a better way to grow as a writer and a person.

It was nice talking with you. I hope you gained as much food for thought from this as I have! Let me know what you think in the comments. It always makes my day to hear from you.


30 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: Grit as a Writer

  1. For some reason I’ve been writing posts and whatnot that has to do with persevering and not giving up this past month. It’s been on my mind, I guess. I love this post about grit! It shows a different take on persevering and the benefits we gain from it.
    Keep on persevering, friend! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree with the last quote. Many things can be broken down into skill sets. Smaller skills are the building blocks of larger ones. I’ve put major effort into studying commas. That won’t help me write better stories, but the stories I do write will be more readable. And I’ve studied story structure and line editing, which are complex groups of skills on their own. Recently, I’ve been studying social media. (That’s a scary group of complex skills with few hard answers.)

    I keep hoping that if I master enough of these things, I’ll eventually have a grasp to succeed at this writing thing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A very challenging and perceptive post Rachael, and sums up just how you’re achieving what you are achieving.
    Now I am having a debate with my writing-self over whether I have grit, stubbornness, or am just anarchical.
    In the meantime this has to be reblogged!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Some folk like to be deadly serious about the whole business and link it to a political or social movement…. Me I go for a basic definition: “chaotic, without order or rule,” – ‘cuz that sums up my whole writing career! 🙃 ☺️ …..Oh my I do feel a post for my blog coming on.
        Thanks Rachael for the inspiration! 😃

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My years aren’t as tender as they once were. Thank you! And that is a huge compliment. If I had to pick, I’d rather be wise than knowledgeable any day of the week. You continue to strive and grow, Richard. You’ve got grit!

      Liked by 1 person

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