Ben Wilson

Quiet Rituals of a Negligibly Successful Writer

An article on quiet rituals of successful people made me think of my own efforts at successful writing.

To summarize the article’s 12 rituals:

  1. Calm, consistent morning routine
  2. Eliminate Busyness work
  3. Do what needs to be done Today
  4. Gradually turn life’s obstacles around
  5. Learn to stretch themselves beyond limits
  6. Turn to their intuition when making tough decisions
  7. Mindfully focus on the positive
  8. Create visual reminders of their long-term goals
  9. Keep a personal notebook
  10. Have mentors to observe and consult with
  11. Welcome honest feedback and criticism
  12. Keep their pride in check

When you look over that list, how many of those do you feel apply to you?

1. Morning Routine. I wake up before the dawn on most work days. This time of year I can start and finish work without seeing the Sun. I argue that I have a calm morning routine. When I try to add writing to it, it loses consistency. I find most work days I have a problem writing in the morning. Beyond that, I’m also fairly worn out by day’s end and have a hard time writing in the evening.

6. Intuition for Tough Decisions. I’m a lifelong student. I wish I could say I read heavily, but I tend to research heavily and read moderately. Audible has helped me increase my reading, though I’m sure some purists will argue that being read to is not the same. Last year I was reviewing a standards document. My intuition suggested a minor tweak that ultimately had a massive impact on how the standards were applied. My studying has primed my mind with data. My ADD/strategic mind applies that data in quirky ways that invariably play out well. So, I submit that to have an intuition capable of being brought to bear, you have to be a lifelong student. The article says you have to trust yourself, but you have to have a honed intellect to make that trust meaningful.

8. Visual Reminder of Goals. In 2012, I put together a 3-year plan. It was a mind map, with five categories I picked up from Personal MBA. It was useful in urging me to try to finish the first four books of the Postal Marine series. The plan expires in January 2015, and to date I’ve not fulfilled any of the goals. Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, planning is invaluable.” While I did not achieve the goals, I made progress and am satisfied.

9. Personal Notebook. I keep one. I started to do so in law school, and have managed to keep one each year since. I’m mixed between the value of using the composition notebook I started using in third grade, or the snobby Moleskine. I use a fountain pen, so I tend to lean to the snobby side.

10/11/12. Mentors, honest feedback and pride. As a writer, I’ve seen my pride in play. Either from hubris or ignorance I believe it’s worth bucking traditional wisdom. In my writing, I’ve seen that a lot of good advice should be followed. I’ve had good mentors in my life, though I’ve rarely followed them. I recently paid an editor to provide feedback and edits to Bellicose. While I initially bristled at her feedback, I recognize the sincerity she put into it. I’ll make some of the changes she suggested. Ultimately, her suggestions impact the entire series, so I hope to apply some of her feedback when I delve into the Luctation revision.

As you see, I’ve only chosen to pick on a few of the 12 tips. I thought the article offered a chance for introspection and shared those that I thought others might care to consider.