Just Show Up

It takes a brave man to swim in the mermaid pond but I think today’s guest is up to the task. Derek Dodson has a Master of Education in professional counseling, and was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for a number of years working with at risk kids and families. He is an accomplished musician (guitar/bass), has a number of black belts in martial arts and is knowledgeable in Chinese, Okinawan and Japanese weapons. Derek has been a college athlete, a rodeo rider, fought as a semi pro kick boxer, and even worked as a bouncer in some really bad bars when he was working his way through grad school. This has probably come in very handy as Derek is also married with four—yes, you heard me right—FOUR beautiful daughters.

And did I mention he also writes romance?

Derek has published several “forgettable articles and lots of academic crap” in his areas of interest, as well as written music and poetry. He began writing fiction a wee bit more than a year ago and is taking that on like he does everything else—full steam ahead. Today he’s here talking about the long road to mastering any skill. Take it away Derek…

The past 30 or so years I have had two great loves in my life beyond family, martial arts and music. During these three decades, I somehow managed to complete a couple of college degrees, get married, raise 4 kids, and change careers three times. All through the demands of job, school and family, I found time for the two pursuits I love the most. Martial arts and music. Certainly there were breaks during times of illness, births, etc., but for the most part, I continued to show up.

Teaching has always been a favorite activity, and with the many years I’ve invested in my two hobbies, I am now viewed as a bit of an authority by some. I think maybe it is just because I am getting old. Over this span of time I can’t tell you how often I have heard people say they wished they could do martial arts or play guitar, but they don’t have the time, talent, money, etc. They often go on to opine about how gifted/talented/blessed/unique I am. BS.

In Geoff Colvin’s excellent book, Talent Is Overrated He lays out all the research done thus far around the topic of talent as it relates to things like business, science, music and other arts. What he so convincingly shows is there is NO evidence for what we call talent when it comes to these interests. What the research does show is those who are considered “talented” in their field are individuals who have a single-minded focus on their one activity to the exclusion of others.

One of the books Colvin cites is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell takes a close look at the habits of those who are highly successful in their field. He is most often quoted for coining the 10,000 hour rule. That is, mastery of most subjects require approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice.

As a novice writer, I am swimming in a sea of amazingly talented people for whom writing seems to flow as effortlessly as breathing. Since I have chosen romance, most of these uniquely gifted people are women. Being active in two local and two online RWA chapters, attending over a dozen online workshops, and reading several of the “must have” books on the topic, I have come to a conclusion. Writing is no different than anything else.

The reason I am surrounded by this chorus of amazingly talented writers is because you ladies put in the time and work your butts off. Jobs, kids, spouses, PTA, etc., all pull you in different directions. Still you find the time to write. The 10,000 hours is no guarantee of success, as there are other factors involved when it comes to publication. However, the self pub world has exposed us to wonderful writers and to those who haven’t reached the 10k mark yet.

Perhaps there is some hope for me as a writer, as I spent 500 words to basically say “just show up”. I would love to hear what others think.




32 thoughts on “Just Show Up

  1. Hi Derek, Hi Dana! Yes, thank you for being here today. Since my world revolves around a football crazed hubby, I can hear his favorite chant as I read your post, “Fire and Desire.” Basically, do you want it or not? For Derek, I was curious to know if you believe in the idea ‘we write what we know’? I do. And I think from your past experience, you’re going to have some really awesome heroes popping up in your books! I for one would be extremely excited to read a romance written by a man who has actual experience in so many alpha fields. Good luck to you!

  2. Great post, Derek. Modest disclaimers aside, you have an amazing background. What you call “Just Show Up” I think is what I call “Butt in the Chair.” I agree, unless you are completely deluding yourself about your own abilities, a sufficient number of hours focusing on one subject brings rewards. We look forward to reading yours in the near future!

  3. Hey Dana, thanks for having me today!

    Carlene, I definitely think we write what we know. The cool thing about writing fiction, particularly historical, is all the fun research involved to expand your “know” circle. Funny you should mention heroes, but on a couple of historicals in process, most of the cool skills go to the heroines. Not sure what that means, but they are unique.

    Miriam, I like the “Butt in the chair” phrase. Basically the same thing. If we want something bad enough, we will work at it until we get it. I have seen this played over and over in life more times than I can recall.

    Thanks ladies for your support, and for stopping by.

  4. What a great post Derek! AND boy do I need to take your advice! I have been writing for well, a long time and its about time I actually SHOWED UP! I need to stop being afraid of success or failure whichever is my most fear, and just get on with it!!

    Thanks so much for sharing!! You are a man of many talents!!


  5. Great to get to know you better, Derek! And yes, showing up is important. I do believe in this profession persistence is key. I submitted my 1st manuscript in 1999. I signed my 1st contract 1 month ago. Keep at it, although it seems I don’t have to tell you that! Instead I’ll say keep up the good work!

  6. Yes, I tend to write tough chicks. No simpering miss syndrome for my ladies, Carlene.

    Andrea, thanks for stopping by. Yeah, we all need that advice from time to time. Currently, I’m checking this blog and reading instead of finishing the chapter I began last night on my wip. Oh well! Have a good holiday.

  7. Great post, Derek. Totally agree with what you said. Nothing is more important than showing up at the page, and putting in the time and effort to master the craft.

  8. Just show up…that sounds like a great start, Derek. As one of the writers in one of your groups, I can say that you are a most adored member and highly respected. As you know, I have this driving force, from where I have no idea, to never give up. It paid off this week with my writing and has made me a lot stronger to face those events in my life that had high impact. What I’ve learned is you have a choice on how to deal with what is thrown at you. What you choose can change your life for the better or worse. Finding something that you love and pursuing it until you succeed is the most rewarding thing a person can do in my humble opinion.

  9. Great post, Derek. As one of the members of your group who hasn’t yet had the fortune of meeting you face to face, I enjoyed learning more about you. Quite an impressive background and family life. Just Show Up is an excellent mantra. The more you ‘show up’ the more you learn and the rest will follow. Best of luck to you. Can’t wait to read something you’ve written.

  10. Derek – Anything worth having is going to be hard work and that is the truth. And sometimes the hardest part is taking that first step- so I think “just show up” is very accurate!

  11. Wow, Alexa, that is some perseverance. Congrats on that new contract!

    My dear Paisley. I am so happy for your good news this past week. You too are a wonderful case of how just showing up pays off after time. That driving force you mention is what Geoff Colvin is talking about in his book. Whatever that thing is which makes us keep going is the seed of creativity, not some magic pixie dust that gets sprinkled upon the lucky few. At least that’s what Colvin and Gladwell would say.

  12. I agree wholeheartedly Derek, the first step to success is deciding to give whatever you love the hard work and devotion it takes to succeed. There is no magic potion or nose wiggle that can do it for you. God knows if there were the house cleaning fairies and laundry fairies would have shown up at my house a long time ago! 🙂

  13. Hey Alicia, thanks for stopping by. Not sure how impressive it is, just different than the usual since I’m a guy. Thanks for your words of support, I appreciate it.

    Robin, hard work is right, but how much fun can be had in the process? Each project, including this little one today can teach us something about ourselves. Thanks for dropping in.

  14. Derek, it’s so awesome to see you here with the mermaids. I love the mermaids! My gosh, you’re quite accomplished in a lot of fields. I’m so in awe of you already, and that you would tackle writing as well, makes me even more so. I wish you every success in your writing and I can definitely say that dreams can come true. As you say, it takes hard work, and in this business, a lot of luck. Got to be in the right place at the right time. Happy holidays and see you back on the Celtic Hearts, although I’m in serious lurk mode since I’m cooped up in my writer’s cave.

  15. Kerri, great to be here, thanks for having me.

    Anita, I’ve always had a thing for mermaids, so I’m enjoying my time in the pond while I can. I certainly appreciate the kind words. You and the other ladies over at CH provide plenty of inspiration. Enjoy your holidays.

  16. I sure hope you are right because as far as talent goes, I was at the back of the line and the service ran out. But I’m still plugging along. My next read is going to be Outliers/nonficton. I’ve heard it is awesome. Presnently reading segment by segment Good to Great, hoping it rubs off.
    But everything you said and all others say is to keep plugging along, one foot in front of the other and believe in yourself and others. Help each other as you do Derek. We are all lucky to have your friendship

  17. Derek, awesome post and oh so true. So many people tell me “I don’t have time to write” and I say it’s all about priorities. I rarely watch TV anymore. That time is now spent at my desk, writing. You have to decide if you REALLY want to do this or not and if so DO IT.

  18. Derek, your diverse background is sure to inspire a delicious story or two, and it sounds like you have the determination (e.g., talent) to do so. My writing group has lots of mottos, but my favorites are: “You Can’t Revise a Blank Page” and “Just Write.” At a writing conference I once attended, one speaker said, “So you want to be writers. What are you all doing here? Why aren’t you home writing?” It is hard to buckle down, and I’ve often said I have great respect for writers who are at home with small children yet manage to produce a volume or two. I couldn’t have concentrated when my kids were around. Since they went off to college, I’ve written five novels, now in various stages of publication. Good luck to you, Derek. I look forward to reading your work.

  19. Hi, Derek! Enjoyed your blog. I had a serious case of ‘couldn’t even find a chair to put my butt in’ for a bit, but couldn’t stop needing to write. It was sooo lonely when I took that break, but family and life… Now I’m back and make time nearly every day to write. CHRW and the critters make it so much fun!

  20. I’m late to the party, Derek, so I’ll just say GREAT post. Thanks for hosting this talented guy, Dana. I’ll be back to visit your wonderful site often.

  21. Denise, I never watch TV anymore either. Occasional football or baseball game and that’s about it. I’d much rather read or write.

    Pat you are so right. Tough to revise what you haven’t written yet. Good luck with Glancing through the Glimmer. I hope Christmas brings you lots of sales.

    My Celtic Critter buddies, Donna, Cathy and Dawn. Thanks so much for stopping by. You ladies help make me a better writer.

    Thanks again to the mermaids for hosting me. Have a wonderful holiday.

  22. Thanks for stopping by everyone, I hope we see you back often! It has been a pleasure having Derek guest blog and remind us to “just show up.”

    Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

  23. Derek,
    I’m so glad I saved your message telling about your blog because it is well worth reading.

    Judy, Derek is telling the truth. I’ve seen many wonderful writers fall by the wayside because they gave up. There is a lot to learn.

    Derek, with four daughters it’s no wonder you turned to romance. Smile.

  24. Excellent advice, excellent resources . . . and it all dovetails nicely with some interesting studies I ran across a few years ago when doing research on brain function . . . those 10,000 hours serve to train us so well that what looks like talent to an outsider is a largely a matter of good training creating well-honed instincts. And that, folks, is how we find success in any field.

  25. Thanks so much for the kind words, Sandy. Not sure how the daughters and romance figure in, as it is tough to think of my little girls involved in romance, but what can you do? They have to grow up sometime.

    LauraP, interesting angle. With the little research I’ve done on brain function, what you say makes perfect sense. Instincts are developed by spending so much time with the subject, we see patterns and possibilities others don’t.

    Thank you both for stopping by.

  26. Spot on, Derek — it’s one of the things I can’t emphasize enough. You’ve got to make the time, put in the time. Anyone can write. Anyone can be published if they commit the hours. Some learn faster than others, some take to certain aspects like fish to water (maybe mermaids here) but if someone wants it badly enough, treat it like any other career path and the “promotions” will come.

    Excellent words — thanks for sharing them!

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