Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Importance of Gumption As An Author

A while back, I read the book Gumption by Nick Offerman. Well, more accurately, I listened to it. Because who wouldn't rather listen to that man's sumptuous voice tell you stories that make you wonder what it is you're doing with your life?

Worth the read, if you can get hold of it.
While the book makes a lot of good points, and is overall an entertaining read, it made me think and reflect on what it takes to be an author. And how gumption (in this case referring specifically to the self-motivation to take on a task) is so important to your overall success.

No One Else Will Make You Do The Thing


I've been writing for cheeseburgers and rent for about ten years, now. I've written short stories, radio plays, blogs, gaming books, and more articles than I can readily count. And in the last few years, a lot of clients have sought me out and offered me work. Every now and again I get lucky, and a project just plops into my lap. However, getting to the point where people knew who I was, and who were familiar with my work, meant that I had to be the one who took the initiative. I had to find, then respond, to classified ads for freelance writers. I had to make phone calls to newspapers, asking if they were accepting stringers. I wrote emails to the directors of gaming companies. Sometimes I got lucky, and got the opportunity to take on a project or two. Other times I was told that no, there was no space available for a freelancer.

And when that happened, I decided to find sites that let me publish my own work, and started building an archive. I got out there, volunteering at conventions, plumbing the corners of social media, and telling anyone who would listen about who I am, and what I do. I watched my numbers, and listened to reader feedback whenever something I did (or was part of) got released. If a piece got rejected, I found another place to submit it. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, even on days when my numbers were low, and the criticism brigade was out in force. I rolled the dice, and waited to see if today was going to be my lucky day.

I've never been picky about what kind of dice I roll, professionally.
After going through that for a decade, I feel I can say with some confidence that gumption is one of the most important part of this process as an author. Or any kind of artist. Gumption is what allows you to hammer through a project, believing in your skill to craft something that people will enjoy. Gumption is what makes you raise your voice, and ask for a chance to step on the stage. It's what lets you shake off rejections, and what gives you the ability to take dipping numbers and negative sales in stride. It is the fire that you keep burning so that no matter how many walls you have to climb, how many doors you have to kick in, or how much vitriol you have to slog through, you never run out of steam. Gumption is what turns you into an unstoppable force... a juggernaut made of words.

That determination, that refusal to quit, is the sort of thing that makes epic music swell in movies like Rocky. But when you're an artist, the knockouts come behind the scenes. They happen quietly, as readers text and chat about your work. As the number of likes you get go up, and as you start seeing yourself get coverage in places you didn't expect. And that's a great feeling... but that kind of stuff doesn't just happen. It takes work... and most importantly, it takes effort.

That's why a lot of it rests on you. You need to get up, wrap your hands, and hit the bag until the seams break. And when they do, and the stuffing comes out? Hang up a new bag, and keep punching. Because there is no end to the routine, the training, or the montage. Every time you knockout a short story, or pummel a novel into shape, you've just got time for a drink of water and a breather before that bells sounds, and you're back in the ring.

You aren't going to win every fight. But to get knocked down again and again, and come up swinging, that takes gumption.

This is all for my thoughts for this installment of The Business of Writing. If you're a keyboard gladiator out there, don't worry, you're not the only one. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive. If you want to stay on top of my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help me keep this blog going, consider supporting me by becoming a patron on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or just Buying Me A Ko-Fi. Both are great ways to keep my work flowing, and to get yourself some sweet swag as a thank you.

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