How you measuring up?

I just finished watching The Ultimate Fighter on DVR. (Something I always look forward to after a long deadline at the paper.)

The show is a competition-style show. Guys receive expert instruction, train hard, then fight. Winner advances. Loser has to know they lost out on a dream and a $100,000 contract. (The Ultimate Fighter is probably like whatever the latest singing competition show is. Same thing, but don’t ask me about the singing show and I won’t ask you if you watch the Ultimate Fighter.)

But the point is the same. Ever think about if you were competing against whoever the best was in your field? These guys are some of the best amateur fighters in the world, but they arrive and BAM! They’re up against other incredible amateur fighters, some of whom are way better than them.

And then it’s gut check time. No longer are they the best, and watching tonight’s’ episode, I thought, “How would Stan do on such a show?”

Obviously, not fighting, but writing. Take Stan and put him in a mansion with like 20 of the best up and coming writers — not that I’m saying I’m one of those 20, but work with me on this.

So, Stan’s in this home and he’s up against all these other dreamers. And they want what I’ve been wanting. And they want it bad. And there are timed writing assignments. Week-long 30,000 word competitions. Challenges to write five great blog entries in a day, on top  of the require 2,500 daily word limit.

Would Stan crack? Would he thrive off it?

I can’t say, but flip that to yourself, and we’ll discuss the dream of writing since most of my followers are writers.

Whatever dream you’re chasing, whatever goal you’re fixated on… How you measuring up? How much you putting into it? (And I’m talking each day here. Every. Single. Day.)

How many excuses you made lately? How much training you done lately, studying writing books or re-reading great books that you’ve loved and dissected for that seventh of eighth time? Best question of all: How much writing have you done lately?

You don’t have to answer these questions in the comments. You don’t have to even like this blog post — hell, it hits me hard, too.

But you do have to do one thing. You have to look in the mirror at night and think of these things. Most of you were thinking about them before you even read this. You feel the guilt when you fall short. You see that peak, and it’s so far away. So high. And there are so many people just like you out there, trying to reach that peak.

How bad do you want it?

What’s your story? Raised poor? Hate your job? Just feel like this dream is in you even if you ignore it for weeks or months at a time?

Have trouble sleeping at night because you know you didn’t measure up that day?

I know the feeling. It happens to me, and then sometimes I have a night like last night and I crank out a 1,000 words after only requiring myself to do 250. And that was after going back into work and working until 10:30 p.m. I worked nearly thirteen hours yesterday, got home at 10:45, walked my dog because I swore I would, and then sat down at my keyboard at like 11:30 — of course, this was after begging Danah to let me stay up and just spend about 15 mins on my upcoming novel Mexican Heat. I just needed 250 words, as I told her (and as she knew).

Next thing I know, my writing — which has felt like work for the past two weeks — was out of control. My fingers and mind just went nuts. I’ve done some time travel or something. It’s 1:30 a.m., I’ve written 1,000 words, and come up with three huge and new plot points. I mean, like incredible epiphanies. It was an out-of-body experience and nearly every one of my writing friends know what I’m talking about.

The writing was insanely good — better than I can possibly do on any given day and yet there it was. On the screen. And I had typed it. (Or someone, using my body had typed it.)

I was in the flow. I was great. No one could have hung with me last night. And had I not feared a second divorce, I’d have written until 4:30 a.m. No lie. I’m that nuts when it’s going that well, especially since for me those kind of experiences are pretty rare.

But back to the present.

It’s 1:52 a.m. at this moment. I’ve had four hours sleep three nights in a row and I’m still going. I just watched Ultimate Fighter and re-affirmed that I want this bad.

And you know what? I think I want it more than you. I think I’ve fed off some of the greatest writers out there and I’ve seen how nuts they are. How much they work. How they carve time out to write, like during lunch — see a guy you may have heard of named Stephen King.

How they woke up two hours early each day before work. Even when their wife laughed at them and mocked them. See a guy named Tom Clancy, who used to sell insurance for a freakin’ living.

So, it’s just you and me right now. Joined in this little crazy competition called The Ultimate Writer, thanks to the power of the internet. I love all you guys, even plan to meet some of you, but I’m here to tell you, you got to cowboy up.

I’m telling you right now, guaran-damn-teed, that I’m going to make it up that peak. And if we were in a competition together, I’d fight my ass off to eat you alive. That’s just the straight-up truth. (Of course, I’d love on you after I whooped your ass.)

And you know what? Some of you want it more than me. I’ve seen your blogs. I’ve seen your progress. I read your study habits, how you beat back the obstacles, and keep the faith. You guys inspire me.

You’re the kind of friends I want. The kind I need.

But back to those who aren’t in that category… Frankly, if you’re weak, I don’t have time for you. I’ll cheer you on some, but I can’t carry your ass. I can’t tell you you’re going to make it, because there’s less than a .000001 percent chance that I’ll make it. And I’m working at this 10x, if not a 100 or a 1,000 times harder than you.

You think this shit is easy? I’d argue it’s as tough as making it in the NFL. You know how many books are on Amazon? How many people call themselves writers? (And millions of them really are, and they’re up right now writing.)

I guess I’m saying that we don’t have a competition with cameras and a big contract at the end, like the Ultimate Fighter. But don’t mis-read this. We may not be in a TV show, but we’re in an epic competition, and there are WAY more than 20 people in it competing for that $100,000.

And there really is a big pile of money at the end. So, how bad do you want it?

How you measuring up? How much you putting into it? How many excuses you made lately?

It’s now well after 2 a.m. and I’m completely exhausted having worked until 11 p.m. tonight on deadline. (Much of it writing and editing for my newspaper.)

Honestly, I don’t really feel like writing. I’ve been sitting in a chair for most of the day already, staring at a screen much like the one I’m looking at now. My eyes hurt. My fingers ache. And my back is killing me.

But I know there are probably a hundred Stan’s out there. Actually, besides the hundreds of Stan’s, who are nobodies with nothing but far-fetched dreams,  there are big dogs, too. The King’s, the Clancy’s, the Grisham’s, the Child’s, the Flynn’s. You think they just got lucky? You think they’re not stone cold killers who work their ass off?

So, take a look at yourself. Step up your game. Get pissed off and fired up. You can have this, if you want it bad enough. And please join me. I get inspired by greatness. I want to climb this peak with you, and enjoy the view from the top. And please kick my ass. Please get in my face. Please show me you want it more than me. I want to feed off you. Steal from your inspiration. And do my ever-loving best to top your ass, and share stories about the early days when we’re loaded and living the life a few years from now.

Anyway, I’m super exhausted now, it’s 2:32 a.m., and I have 250 words to write. At least.

So… Get some. Take no prisoners. Keep moving.

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please accept the greatest gift I can give, a book I believe to be worth $10,000.

P.P.S. Thanks to all who continue to make my novels a success. I seriously couldn’t have done it with everyone’s support. Please continue to talk about them, share links to them, and review them where you can. Oh, and don’t forget to follow my blog — you can do so by email up at the top right of the page.

7 thoughts on “How you measuring up?

  1. OK, Stan, you’ve got it bad. And indeed that may be what you need. Stay pumped up but watch out for crashes and backlashes.
    Just remember to stop now and then and think what’s important in your life – besides knocking everyone else off your hill.

    Don’t lose the ability to love, to appreciate, to breathe. To enjoy a warm spring breeze loaded with daffodil scents. To work up a sweat mowing your lawn and topping it with a snappy cold beer. To eat a damn fine meal. To reach out to friends – and not with your tight fists in front of your face.

    I applied your challenge to myself and found that I have avoided everything but getting through each day as a good person, as a kind person, as a generous person. Maybe that was what I was meant to be.

    I know I gave up trying to be the best cellist around – and even at Eastman School of Music, I was better than kids a year or two ahead of me. But I didn’t like the sharp elbow aspect. And physically, I could never to the lightning scales required.

    But I’ll tell you a secret – although I DO NOT practice now (and fortunately I’m good enough to get through most orchestra music on sight-reading ability, good playing habits and moxie. I hate praciticing. But I discovered years ago that if I can get through that first hour of practice, a hypnosis (call it what you want) comes over me, and I can let my mind float and the bod takes over, teaching itself the critical moves. I’ve gone on for hours that way. Could this be related to the creative fog you seem to wrap yourself in?

    Life is short. Too damn short. And the older I get, the creakier I get. The mind doesn’t shut like a steel trap anymore. I find it very hard to learn new languages.

    But yout theory, as I read it, still applies. I don’t know what battles I’m fighting but I’ll take them one at a time and come out on top. And at least I won’t die young. snort.


  2. Stan, you are Mr. Tenacity. You’re definitely one of the hungriest writers out there and your work ethic shows that. I hope we find ourselves facing each other in that ring… or better yet, working together as a tag team against some of those other writers out there. Either way, as you say, fighting for our dreams isn’t a guarantee for success. But not fighting for them is a guarantee for failure.


  3. Great. Now I don’t know if I feel like climbing something or writing. 🙂

    Seriously though, great post! Nancy makes some great counterpoints, too.

    Personally, I’ve avoided the word count goal, but I’m also not getting very far either. So I’ll ask in the interest of figuring one out for myself: is 250 a daily word count goal for you?


    1. Many times I agree with Nancy. See all my posts about Eastern thinking. I took a three-day weekend last week — something I’ve done probably less than five times in eight years.

      So, my life is getting more in balanced. Slowly. But life is also about yin and yang, in my opinion. You relax sometimes and you go balls out during others.

      And I know Nancy. She’s one of the hardest working people I know, and a huge inspiration. Ran a non-profit almost 24/7 for like 30 years, if I’m not mistaken. So, her telling me to ease up and slow down is like Hitler telling one of his proteges that military force and dreams of conquest should not be acted upon. : )

      And yes, 250 works best for me. When I had a higher goal of 1,000, I often couldn’t even get it in me to attempt it. 1,000 is tough on a bad day.

      Last night, after this post, I nearly didn’t even hit 250. Was stuck on 184 for like fifteen minutes. But I couldn’t fall short after talking such shit. So, I just sat there until I worked out the hole I’d put myself in, and then went on a nice burst, ending at 485.

      250 — a nice, easy, and low goal — is ideal for me. And coincidentally, it follows the Eastern thinking idea of setting small goals for major projects.


      1. Hey, don’t get me wrong! When it’s time to work, it’s time to get down to it. No argument there! 🙂

        And thanks for the advice. 250 seems like a manageable daily goal (he says before he consistently misses it for the next few weeks).


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