Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eight Days a Week: Learning from the Greats in Our Writing Lives

Greatness. According to William Shakespeare:

Some are born great,
Some achieve greatness ,
and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Look at history, politics, art, music, literature, and sciences…what do all of the best in these fields have in common?

I would suggest in almost all cases they achieved greatness.
I recently attended a conference where a speaker was Mark Hamby of Lamplighter ministries and was inspired by his ideas of excellence and how they might apply to the writing life. He has some wonderful books for children available at Lamplighter Ministries.

Why do many of the artists of the 15th century still continue to be considered as extraordinary?

According to Hamby,these artists came from a time period in which the Agon philosophy of education was valued. This school of thought is where we get our word “agony” from. It means a relentless pursuit of excellence.

What else do DaVinci, Bill Gates, the Beatles, Abraham Lincoln, and Steve Jobs have in common? And how do we apply their secrets of greatness to our writing lives?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->                 1.Find a group of like-minded individuals to inspire, encourage and challenge you. 

C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had the Inklings society. Writers of the 21st century had the Algonquin Round Table.

- Who is in your “posse”?
- Make sure to surround yourself with those who will help you achieve your personal best.
- Value your critics, not just those that love your voice but those who have constructive criticism to bring to bear. Proverbs 27:6 says "faithful are the wounds of a friend".
- Who can you add to your circle who challenges you to be more than you currently are?
- Read the work of authors who are better than you are. The more you read the greats and immerse yourself in their language, the more your words will be transformed.

                                                        2. Turn off the TV. 

Did you know that Steven Spielberg’s children did not grow up on a diet of television? He knew the power of the media and encouraged his children to use their imaginations.

- Pretend you are a child. Allow yourself to play hard. Most of the best business owners throughout history are hard workers and enjoy their free time.
- Enjoy the simplicity of life. Your writing will then become more original by default.
- It may not be the TV. For me it's emails that suck me into the spiraling vortex. What voices of the culture or forms of amusement are drowning out your creativity?

                             3. Competition CAN be a good thing when kept in perspective.

I just looked over scores from a writing competition before I wrote this. These thoughts come to mind:

- It is an opportunity to learn graciousness.
- It can be humbling.
We need to take a Christ-like view of trying to be our own personal best.
- Look for an opportunity to stretch yourself this week. Maybe by entering a contest, maybe by applying for a job.

                       4. Place yourself under the tutorship of masters.

- Ask for lots of help.
- Rub shoulders with the best around the world.
- If there are opportunities to meet authors or artists, take advantage of it.
- Listen to the stories and experiences of great men and women.
- Read great biographies. Many of us read fiction or specific how-to books on craft, but much benefit can be gained by reading about others’ experiences.

                                            5.   <!--[endif]-->Put in 10,000 hours.  

Do you know the origin of The Beatles popular song “Eight Days a Week”?

The Beatles were a mediocre group who were heard by a German producer. He told them, “your music stinks, but I’m going to hire you and make you great.”

Each day of the week they played in a different genre, a different venue. Monday classical music, Thursday Jazz, Friday rock and roll, and so on. They played in these venues for 15 hours a day. In addition they were expected to practice for an extra three hours. Eighteen hour days seven days a week. So they were literally working 8 days a week.

Translate that into time spent in a year. It's over 10,000 hours, the proven amount of time it takes to achieve mastery.

Have you really put your time in? Are you willing to sacrifice of your precious time?

Most important: imagine how our writing would be transformed (not to mention everything else in our life) if we first put this principle into play in Bible study. What can we sacrifice for extra time in “mastery” of God’s word? Not for head knowledge, but out of love for Jesus.

In a future post I’ll be discussing what I believe is the most important common secret of the greats.

What “greats” have breathed their passion into your life? Who do you most admire and do you think their influence is seen in your writing life?

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys reading and reviewing books for Library Journal, The Title Trakk, and Christian Library Journal.


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Julia, what a great post. I didn't know that about the Beatles. It sure gives credence to the 10,000 hours needed for greatness, doesn't it?

Some of those "greats" who have greatly influenced my writing life include Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck and Beth Vogt. Each of these amazing ladies has broadened my scope of story crafting knowledge and heart knowledge.

Happy evaluating and writing! I'm doing the same today.

Julia M. Reffner said...


I know, I thought that story was pretty interesting since they are considered to be such musical great for this century.

Wow, yes, the MBT crew is fantastic.

Happy writing. I'm going to be using some of your evaluating techniques.

MaKenna Morgan said...

Might I ask if you have recently heard Mark Hamby speak? He had several sessions at Florida's Homeschoool Convention in 2012, and I still listen to them today! In several of his talks he spoke of Agon, and the 10,000 hours it takes to create excellence... Just wondering!


ps. Although I've been following ya'll for almost a year, this is the first time I've ever commented (Yay me!)... So thanks for drawing me out of obscurity! lol

Julia M. Reffner said...

Yes, I knew the 10,000 hours from other books but yes, he has been very inpsirational to me in my writing and other parts of life as well. I'm going to change the post a bit to point people over to his great ministries.

I'm glad you commented, MaKenna. Glad to have you at the Alley. :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Aww, thanks, Julia. You know it's your fault I was asked to blog on Seekerville about my eval sheet. :) Thanks for that. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I loved the timing of it all, too. God's hand for sure. :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Awesome words of wisdom here, Jules!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks, Amy!