How to Be a Winner
by Barbara Renner
Most of you know by now that Hubby and I drive north from Arizona to Minnesota for the summer. We do this for three reasons: cooler weather, fish, and golf. “Huh? Golf?” you ask. “When there are 185 golf courses in the Phoenix area?” Let me explain.
For 86 years, amateur golfers from different parts of the country have competed in the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament at the Detroit Country Club in the small resort town of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Ten years ago, one of Hubby’s friends convinced him to enter the Senior Division. Golf had been Hubby’s profession, as a club pro at Sun City Country Club for 10 years and then as a manager at Karsten Manufacturing, the makers of PING golf clubs. Nine years ago, he advanced to the Super Senior Division for golfers aged 65 and older; that’s when he started winning. A Medalist winner is the low-scoring golfer in the qualifying round. Hubby won Medalist four times. He won the Super Seniors championship in his division six times . . . in a row. The Detroit Lakes newspaper calls him a legend. No other golfer has attained such a streak of wins in the history of the tournament.
I asked Hubby what makes him a winner. Basically, he has the desire to win, the motivation to work at it, and the competitiveness to be the best. He shared his winning plan, which sounds to me like a plan that also can be applied to writers.
Knowledge/Experience: Hubby started playing golf when he was nine years old. He participated in Junior Golf, took lessons in high school, and earned a golf scholarship for college. He reads books on golf and gives lessons, even to me! He shared that one of the keys to improving his game is to watch and study skilled players.
Knowledge/Experience for Writers: Stephen King gives the best advice, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
- Read books in your genre. Check out books from the library or sit down with some bestsellers at the local Barnes and Noble.
- Study other writing styles or genres to learn new techniques.
- Read writing-related books to study your craft. Stephen King’s On Writing comes to mind, and there are many more from which to choose.
- Join a writers’ meetup or critique group for new skills and feedback.
- Take college courses either online or in the classroom. Participate in a webinar. Sign up for a workshop.
- Dissect writing that you admire. Highlight phrases, underline sentences, and bracket paragraphs as you read books, blogs, or articles.
Goal setting: Hubby sets realistic goals. He knew that wanting to hit drives longer than anyone else in Minnesota was not reasonable or achievable. Instead, he set two goals for the Pine to Palm: (1) make it to the finals and (2) win the championship. To prepare for the tournament, he followed a plan that contained smaller goals, or stepping stones, to achieve his major goals. The more goals he set and achieved, the more confident he became about what he was doing. He made it to the finals nine times and won the championship six times. Goals achieved.
Goal Setting for Writers: What are some of the goals writers want to achieve?
- Looking for a publisher or an agent? Attend writers’ conferences and pitch your manuscript. Read articles on writersdigest.com about writing query letters.
- Struggling with a particular aspect of writing? Focus on improving that weakness. Work with a critique partner. Study elements of writing books.
- Wanting to sell more books? Do book signings at book festivals, street fairs, arts & crafts events, and libraries. Visit schools as a guest author and provide an order form. Study effective ways to use social media as a marketing tool. Advertise on Amazon and Facebook.
- Devoting more time to writing? Write a daily to-do list and include a block of time for writing.
- Looking to win an award? Research and enter literary contests. Enter short story contests. Budget money for entry fees.
Practice: Have you heard the term “golf widow”? When Hubby is preparing for the Pine to Palm tournament, that term applies to me. He practices every day for whatever time is required to achieve his desired level of performance, focusing on different aspects of his game. He also plays golf at least twice a week, including 36 holes on Men’s Day with his buddies.
Practice for Writers: A theory Malcolm Gladwell posits in Outliers: The Story of Success is that to master any skill, you must practice 10,000 hours or more.
- Write every day. If you are working on a manuscript, find the time of day you feel you are most productive and include that time on your daily to-do list.
- Write every day. When you write an email, take the time to ensure it is grammatically correct. Challenge your word choice to improve your spelling and creativity. Substitute stimulating synonyms – everything can’t be “awesome.”
- Write every day. Write unique Facebook/Instagram/Twitter posts. Post a picture and then describe it, using your best creative writing.
- Write every day. Write blog posts on your website or volunteer to be a guest blogger.
- Write every day. Write articles for newsletters.
- Write every day. Enter short story writing contests.
Hubby became a winner by applying his knowledge, achieving his goals, and practicing his skills. Writers can become winners by going from being good to being great and producing work that makes them proud.
Barbara Renner and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Birds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at RennerWrites.com, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.