I have learned in this life to believe people’s actions. Words are easy to come by. Take it from me, who cobbles them together on a regular basis. People talk. We communicate. We tell everyone stories.
Most people never fail to forget that what we do is what People’s actions tell me exactly what each and every person is. I’m not much into the whole perfection thing.
Perfection freezes people. It’s an unattainable standard and if we’re honest, shouldn’t even be an ideal. We fall short, and that’s life. That doesn’t mean we can’t go for excellence however. Excellence is a skill and a trait we can all shoot for. Sometimes we fail, but other times, we succeed.
How do we get to excellence? The simple answer is practice.
Practice fricking sucks. Really, that’s the challenge of it. It’s not glamorous, nor does it give you a sense of accomplishment, because that is the internal struggle. Getting up and doing something over and over again.
It’s a pain in the ass. The truth is that everyday we practice however. If we hear the alarm clock every morning and we hit snooze, and we do it each and every day, that’s practice. That’s creating a habit, and if there’s one thing to work on for me, it’s this. I just hate getting up early. Quite a few of us do.
There are other habits we form. Do you go outside and enjoy the day, or do you sit there, doing nothing? Do you work on that manuscript or do you sleep? Or eat? Or Watch television?
Some habits are easier to develop than others. The easy path I have found in life only has one requirement, and that’s doing absolutely nothing. Doing nothing is the easiest thing in the world, and changes you the slowest.
I have habits I’ve formed for my life. Some of them are good, but if I’m honest, some of them are terrible. And if I want to change the course of my life, I have to look at my choices with the same scrutiny I would when I write something. For you see, excellence can be a habit.
The best in the field work towards this objective. And if you want to get somewhere, you should too.
Discipline Comes From Within
What do you want?
The biggest secret I’ve learned about people is that they will do exactly what they want to do. So, be honest with yourself. If you want to be successful at freelance writing, what are you doing everyday to make it happen? Are you applying for freelance jobs? Are you contacting places to pitch? Or are you doing nothing?
Excellence must become a habit and that means doing the stuff that you feel is hard or unfair. In short, practice.
My podcast is an exercise in practice. I book interviews, I do them when it’s convenient for my guests to the best of my ability, I do the interview, I take the raw stuff, I edit it, produce the show and deliver. Some weeks it’s freaking fantastic. Some weeks I don’t do as well as I’d hope. I’ve done 419 episodes as of this writing. Every time I think I do a better interview, and every time I (hope) do better with the technical end.
The more you do, the more you realize you don’t know. When I was younger my biggest fear was being tiny. As I get older and realize I know less and less, I realize that this is a good thing. It means there’s always room for me to grow and change. And that’s awesome.
You’re never going to know all there is to know. There will always be new challenges. Technology may change, or there are new techniques. SEO is not a new thing but a lot of us are trying our best to master the skills required to be better.
I’m good, but I want to be great. That means each and every day that I have to put effort in. My creative writing is one of the biggest differences. I’m learning new techniques all the time. And I’m thinking more about how to tell the story that needs to be told. I want the emotion and resonance of what I’m writing strike home each and every day. The details of what happens aren’t important. HOW it happens and what emotions I’m trying to convey are what matter.
So now I know enough to look at a scene with that kind of critical eye. Because I’m thinking about it in those terms, I can imagine the story in greater detail and nuance. It creates depths I never considered before. I didn’t get to that level without the practice I had.
Talent can make things easier, but the most dangerous thing you can believe is that you are just good at something. It’s my biggest mistake, because I know what I’m doing, right?
The best advice I ever got from my teacher is that “Things come easy to you. You’re going to have to teach yourself when things get hard.” He was right. Thank you Mr. Stewart for that sage advice. Talent makes things come to you easier, but when you want to make the leap from good to great, sometimes that little step is elusive. Because the line is inches. Sometimes, talent gets in the way of you making that leap.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and look critically at where we struggle. It keeps us humble in a good way. By eliminating that we are good (or bad, that’s just as terrible) and just take the subject at hand objectively and measure out our shortcomings, we can become great at something.
The last thing we want to be is Michigan J. Frog. Michigan J. Frog could have been a legend, IF he had ever been able to handle a crowd.
Excellence is Habit
To create that habit, just practice, and be open to learning. We can always be better at what we do, even the things we are good at. When we meet the best, they never forget to be humble about their strengths, because they know they can still get better.
But it’s up to you. What do you want? Because at the end of the day, you do it. Be conscious of your habits. We all carry them.
Thanks for reading. If you guys have a minute, Check out my latest release Alice Zero, my epic poem that mashes up Alice in Wonderland and Greek Mythology. If you want something a little more traditional, check out The Cloud Diver. It’s my love letter to video games and science fiction adventure.