Writerly Wednesdays

Grit for Breakfast: The Writer’s Choice

Every new and used novelist suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

You’re writing and on top of the world. Words flow smoothly and you’re the best writer, ever. Then, something happens, and you’re knocked from your lofty heights. You realize you don’t know what you’re doing, the words you wrote don’t make sense, and you don’t even know how to read. So, why did you think you could ever write a novel?

Welcome to day one.  

You have two choices— quit or learn to write. Welcome to the writer’s life.

Angela Duckworth, in her landmark book called Grit, points to a study by Steve Maier involving rats (because rats and humans are more alike than rats like to admit). Here’s a twist. In some tests, the rats became weaker when faced with adversity. Challenges made them worse rats.

We’ve met people who have shriveled under difficulty, where someone said something unkind, and forty-nine years, thirty-two days, seven hours, and forty-four seconds later, they are still fighting the demon. Adversity makes them worse.

Or perhaps a medical condition strikes a swimmer, and they can no longer swim. They’re no longer proving themselves in the pool, and their skills fade.

I chatted with a guy who started his own business selling remote-controlled aircraft and training people how to use them. He’d been a cocky youth, but a bullet in Afghanistan went into his forearm and traveled up his bone and out his shoulder. He decided to become a better person by rewriting his personality.

Angela Duckworth points out it’s not the trial that made them, but how they found a way out of their trial that made all the difference. 

The choice of your reaction, when you’re up against a lifetime of learning to write, is important.

Writing is adversity. I’ve encountered three points that make a successful author, and these truths are also pulled from Angela Duckworth’s book.

  1. A Growth Mindset: Successful writers are eager to learn, always the student, and never a master. Trials are opportunities to learn.
  2. Optimism: Telling yourself it will be okay is a powerful tool to overcome adversity. Your mind believes what you tell it.
  3. Encourage Others: Joining Idahope and helping other authors with the first two points propels successful writers to continue bettering themselves, acting like accountability partners.

Quit, or become a better writer. We’ll chat soon about the steps you can take to be the writer God has meant you to become. Until then, grow with optimism in your soul, then spread the joy to others.

About this post: Beliefs represented by individual authors are not necessarily shared by all members of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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