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Major Mitchell

Author

HABITS

January 21, 2017

 

Each of us form habits early in life. We learn quickly that certain behaviors will bring either a loving touch and smile from our parents, or it will quickly bring their wrath and displeasure. I grew up the youngest of eight children, and neither parent had time for childish fits of temper or pestering and whining. Such actions would never bring the desired result. Instead, they brought the wrath of mama quickly, in the form of a paddling on my behind or being sent into the bedroom, never to come out, until the warden working in the kitchen decided it was time.

The habits learned at that early age have benefited me through life. While working to support my family, I knew that the boss who had hired me, hired me for a reason. That reason was to make money. He had not hired me to pester him for raises, or whine because it was too hot or too cold (conditions that are common in construction). The fact was, if it happened to be hot or freezing cold, it was hot or freezing for everyone, and my whining was not going to benefit anyone. The bottom line was, if I refused to show up for work, or refused to complete the tasks given me, someone else would have to do the job. That meant the company lost money, and in reality, I wasn't needed. There was a saying among the American cowboys in the old west that said if you took a job, it didn't matter what the man was paying you, you worked as hard as you could every day, regardless; a standard that is seldom followed today.

It seems that many people think criticizing someone who has worked hard and sacrificed to build a business is somehow acceptable. Because someone has worked hard and been lucky enough to be successful, that does not mean he is cheating the public or is greedy and selfish. Some believe the company owner should be willing to give away his hard-earned money to people who have never worked for them, or provided a product or service the company uses.

In truth, most company owners work longer hours for less than most everyone working for them. I closed a company years ago, simply because I discovered I had averaged approximately $1.98 per hour the previous year, while paying my employees $15.00 per hour. This was after being in business several years. If everyone worked as hard as their boss, perhaps the company they work for would be able to hire more people or give raises to the existing employees.

The same goes for writing. Too many times an author will settle for a manuscript that is “just as good as,” instead of writing one that is “much better than.” Kaiser Permanente has the motto that “good enough isn't good enough.” Perhaps that is why they are the nation's largest health provider. As an author, I can testify that we've all been guilty of lazy writing, wanting to move on to the next story inside our head, then getting discouraged or complaining that the book hasn't sold as well as our previous one. Many of the books hailed as masterpieces were single books, where the author never wrote a second.

 Some of this, at least in my case, is due to life. We take on too much and get too busy. We need to create good writing habits. I wrote The Dońa at 4:00 am, a few pages at a time, before going to work. I wrote Mokelumne Gold locked inside a camp trailer, away from people and the telephone in the dead of winter. I haven't done so in recent years, but it’s a habit I should get back to. Not that we need to rise at 4:00 am every morning, but we do need to make time to write a few quality pages every day.

 

When I joined Western Writers of America I was privileged to learn from some excellent writers such as Elmer Kelton, who shared with me the message that it is hard work that wins the day.

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