Pay your dues

I first read on Tribal Writer about the book “How to be a Highschool Superstar” by Cal Newport but she also introduced me to deliberate practice and having depth. It has taken me a year to really understand these things.

I subscribed to Cal’s blog Study Hacks (don’t you love how you can link to blogs you read, and use first names as if you were a close personal friend). His latest post was about sticking to your big ambition, but not chasing your big idea.

In my experience, students have been taught to place way too much importance on having the courage to follow their passions and change the world, and not nearly enough importance on having the persistence to first build the needed ability to both find concrete projects that matter and accomplish them.

 I just pondered this idea in an email where a friend and I were discussing following your hobby to a job and the 10 years/10,000 hour rule. And I finally understand what Mr. Newport was saying, you have to pay your dues and learn the ropes and become good at something, one thing. You have to acquire depth in a given area and then you can have anything you want.
I want to be a famous author. You don’t just get to snap your fingers and do that. You have to pay your dues. You have to write a lot of words. And the new thing is social media and blogging. Blogging creates good habits, it gets your name into the world, and creates readership. 
Kristen Lamb teaches writers to stop blogging about themselves or about writing. She has great information about how to pay your dues as a writer and build your audience. Few authors get to snap their fingers and get a top agent, great first contract and have their book take off on the best seller lists everywhere. It’s a slow progression.
Everyone has to pay their dues with hardwork and time. I dont’ mean spending 18 hours a day on Twitter, I mean just slogging it day after day. No one rose from mail room to CEO in a day, nor did anyone start out making $1000 an hour for coaching fees.  We all have to apprentice. Too many people, myself included, jump around from idea to idea and wind up spinning our wheels and never achieving anything.
I’m paying my dues. Are you paying your dues or you still expect success to magically occur?

4 thoughts on “Pay your dues

  1. Hi Asrai!

    Cal Newport is great — his blog is one of the best on the ‘Net, and that book you mentioned is great for anyone who wants to be remarkable, period. You’re working off some great info. :) Also I think, going forward, that developing an authentic, charismatic online presence is so essential for writers — maybe more than we realize — and blogging is at the heart of that. So learning how to blog effectively is one of the most powerful things you can do for your career — you really can build an audience that way. Plus it’s fun. Plus it really can make you a better writer — it helps you develop your voice, work out your ideas, and develop a sense of resonance with your audience. Another good book to check out if you haven’t already is Sean Platt’s WRITING ONLINE.

    Best to you.

  2. Maybe because I’m old, but back in my day there was still the idea of corporate loyalty ~ people worked for the same company for eons. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore and people are struggling to find where they fit in and where they can stay for awhile. It was drilled into me to start from the bottom and work your way up, but I can see how that has gone awry. Even my own kids want to be the best and most fantastic right out of the gate. They don’t want to wait for anything! The world is so fast and things are so immediate that the idea of paying your dues is foreign to them. Even though my husband and I have instilled in them a work ethic an patience, they still get frustrated. Oi!

    I’ll have to check out Mr. Newport’s blog. Perhaps he has some sage parenting advice for me so that my kids will learn to settle down, start small and work their way up. Sounds like you’ve got that figured out and are on your way to that famous author reality!

  3. I’m definitely paying the piper, Asrai. This is a terrific post. It’s far easier to sit back and wait till your “just rewards” fall into your lap. It’s much more difficult to keep on reaching for the top (or in my case, the bottom rung of the ladder LOL!).

  4. I had a really great conversation with Diane Capri on Twitter today about something very similar–new writers expect to find the pot of gold right away. It doesn’t work that way. I started by writing book reviews for a small newspaper for free and networking my heart out. I moved on to writing articles for dirt cheap and continued networking my heart out. While I was doing that, I worked another job to pay the bills. Eventually I was able to reach the point where I could write full-time and pay the bills, but it took years. My next goal is to eventually move to writing fiction full-time, but first I need to pay my dues :)

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