You know how sometimes you find just the right book when you need it, as if someone dropped it into your hands for a reason?
That happened to me recently with not one, but two books that turned out to be related to each other: Grit by Angela Duckworth, and Known by Mark Schaefer.
These books entered my life as I was in the final stages of revising and publishing the second edition of Subscription Marketing. During those final weeks, the mass of details can threaten to overwhelm the independently published author. So, a dose of bracing encouragement was welcome.
Reading these books reminded me of this essential truth:
Writing requires persistence and grit.
Neither book is targeted directly at writers and authors, but both offer powerful lessons for those who want to write and publish their work.
- Writers: Read Grit for what it says about perseverance, purpose, and joy in the work.
- Authors: Read Known for the realities of building that all-important “author platform”
The Foundation for Achievement: Grit
Most of us have a tendency to put a great deal of faith in talent. This belief lets us off the hook when we don’t achieve what we hoped. If we’re not as successful as someone else, they must have more talent, right?
Not so fast, writes Duckworth. In Grit, Angela Duckworth presents a compelling argument that talent is only one factor in achievement. She offers the following equations:
Talent x effort = skill
Skill x effort = achievement
Did you notice something? Effort appears twice – and it’s a multiplier. It’s time to get to work.
The highest achievers, according to Duckworth, tend to share the same quality, which she calls grit. It’s a combination of passion and perseverance that fuels achievement.
The good news is we can develop and enhance our personal grit at any stage of life. The book presents the psychology of grit, and its four main factors:
- Capacity to practice
Note that hope, in this context, is not the same thing as a passive, unfounded optimism. Rather, as Duckworth phrases it, hope is “the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future.”
The book explains each of these topics in great detail, and I highly recommend it. As you read, consider how these aspects of grit apply to writing.
Interest: To achieve something with your craft, you should be interested either in writing itself or your subject – ideally both.
Practice: You’ve heard it so many times: to write better, write and revise, then do it some more. You need the capacity to practice and refine your craft.
Purpose: A sense of purpose will help you through the tough patches and setbacks. Is there a message you want to share? Do you seek to communicate deeply with others through your writing? A purpose beyond yourself strengthens resilience.
Hope: Writing has its good days and bad days. On the bad ones, you need faith that if you keep persevering, you will make progress.
Hope gets us through the rough draft, confident that we can fix its imperfections in revision. Hope inspires us to publish our work, so that our message might find others. It keeps us working to build and refine our craft.
Hope is also particularly relevant to the work of building an author platform. That brings us to the next book.
Building the Author Platform: Known
I’ve been a fan of Mark Schaefer for a while. So I was delighted to find his latest book, Known.
As Schaefer defines it, becoming known is about building authority and reputation, not necessarily fame. The subtitle is: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age.
Substitute author platform for personal brand in the subtitle, and the you’ll see why I included it in this review.
If you’re an author trying to build a platform, or looking to develop that elusive thought leadership quality, Known is a terrific guide, illustrated with fascinating stories. Schaefer offers his simple formula for building a platform:
- Find your sustainable interest (your place)
- Identify your audience (your space)
- Produce consistent content
The last step is a doozie — produce, and produce, and produce. Keep listening, improving, and producing.
That’s where the idea of grit comes in. Schaefer refers to Duckworth’s book, so they make a great companion set for the writer. Approach the writing and publishing process with a fair measure of grit.
Writes Schaefer: “There’s no shortcut. To be known is a privilege to be earned.”
If you’re planning on pursuing a writing career and publishing your works, put both of these books on your reading list.
Other Book Reviews for Writers
How We Learn by Benedict Carey
Sell More Books with Less Social Media by Chris Syme
Productivity for Creative People, by Mark McGuinness
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield