On Grit

Day 24, 500 words, 31 days.

On my wife’s Facebook wall today, I came across an interesting article that unpacked the importance of a particular quality in becoming successful at what you do.

Grit.

The article couldn’t have been more timely. There are just several days left until this writing project officially comes to a close and while my restlessness makes for numerous ideas floating about in the mysterious space between my ears, it doesn’t always translate into actual material.

I mean, good, worthwhile, storytelling material.

Some days are like, today.

Nothing particularly eventful or interesting, just a day in which I let myself languish for the sake of “recuperating” after a draining week. I got my coffee at the usual spot, had a nice, long conversation with my friend, the owner, came home and putzed around for half the day, looked up airline flights I can’t afford, picked up my wife at school, and then we got groceries, fries, and some porridge. That about sums it up.

For several days, I had more than enough to work with – the rapid pace of traveling and unfortunate twists and turns that made our trip far more an adventure than it was projecting to be – that made for some decently compelling stuff. I could barely keep my eyes open to write, but I had more than enough to get down on paper before my body shut down for good.

Today, I’m struggling. I’ll admit it right now.

I suppose like any story, this project, too, has a beginning, middle and end. And within that trajectory there are rising things and falling things. There’s excitement, and then, there isn’t. There’s suspense, and then there’s the pending resolution. It’s, for moments, mostly interesting, and then, clearly, not at all.

Right now is one of those dips in the plot arc that the reader, you, might be trying to avoid before you sink into a quicksand called boredom.

It’s one of those days when the only thing that motivates me is what I said I’d do from the very beginning – to stay the course, and finish.

There are moments, long, arduous, baking-under-the-sun sort of moments, when the well runs empty, and the well was the only thing I dreamed about reaching so I could stop panting.

That article I read described “grit” as

“the ability to sustain interest and effort to complete long-term goals”

. I wasn’t completely satisfied with that description so I turned to the dictionary, and it gave me something a little more uplifting.

Grit, noun. Firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck.

My favorite of those is “pluck”. That’s the sort of word that wins you games in Scrabble. But the first definition was probably the most heartening.

I needed to hear that grit referred to character. It is the quality you could equate to tenacity. Mettle. Internal fortitude.

In my particular case, it’s precisely the sort of steadfastness I was praying for when I decided I’d start writing – everyday.

To be fair, there are far more things for which this quality of grit could serve an even greater use. Life and death sort of matters, like, well, life and death. Like war. Or championship matches. Or a most riveting game of Scrabble.

To consider how much grit I need to stay the course on a daily writing project that’s about to end might sound a tad overdramatic. And it is. But if I didn’t attribute to this cause so much importance, if I didn’t feel the weight of not finishing bear down on my shoulders like a biblical yoke – well, then I wouldn’t bother finishing at all. In fact, I’d have stopped a long time ago, long before things ever got mildly interesting.

I’d have stopped on a day like today, and I have many of them, believe me.

But I haven’t. I’m proud of that. I’m also foolish and naive and scared everything I’ve written here is the most self-absorbed rambling I’ve ever coughed up in my life.

But I’m glad I have a little bit of that grit. Just enough to last a few more days maybe. So long as I finish, I’ll know there’s more than just wandering thoughts stirring the little engine inside.

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