Author Grant Blackwood’s Secret to Success: Persistence


New York Times best-selling author Grant Blackwood said if he were to get one tattoo, it would be the word “persistence.”

“Persistence makes everything and anything possible,” he told the audience during his April 22 keynote speech for the 2016 Northern Colorado Writers conference at the Fort Collins Marriott.

Though he felt his persistence wane many times, he thought, “What if I’m only a week away from succeeding?”

So Blackwood held tight to his dream with quiet, stalwart determination.

“In this business, it might take 10 years to become an overnight success,” he said. “It took me 12 years.”

What drove him to continue?

“From the very beginning, I knew what I wanted to do,” he said about catching the writing bug when he was eight or nine years old. “I wanted to entertain people.”

Irwin Allen movies such as The Poseidon Adventure and Ian Fleming thrillers like Dr. No inspired him. “I have my mother to thank. She instilled in me a love of reading.”

His favorite hobby led him to imagine an exciting future career.

“It was a breathtaking idea that someday I could write novels,” he said.

From that time on, he worked to write, including splitting wood by hand during Minnesota winters, and other odd jobs that kept a roof over his head and food in the dog bowl. (His Labrador shepherd, Gus, was with him from the time he began writing to one month before his first novel was published.)

A few days after completing his three-year stint in the U.S. Navy in 1987, Blackwood got a typewriter and began his new career.

The author, who moved to Arizona last year, said he misses this community. “In many ways, Fort Collins is where I got my start.”

He joined a critique group, but it wasn’t a good fit. “I wish I had a group like this when I started,” he said about Northern Colorado Writers.

He moved here from Minnesota in 2007 with his wife, Julie, whom he met in 1999, just before achieving the success he had dreamed about. Within a few months he received invitations from Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy to co-write their books, and ended up writing one million words over six years.

He is now the best-selling author of the Briggs Tanner series (The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War), and co-author of the Fargo Adventure Series with Clive Cussler; the #1 New York Times best-seller, Dead or Alive, with Tom Clancy; and the new thriller, The Kill Switch, with James Rollins.

Blackwood joked about his “passive-aggressive” way of reviving past unpublished manuscripts. “I have, over the years, slipped sections of my ‘sock drawer’ book into new books.”

Writers live in a hard world, he said, he’s learned important lessons that also apply to life:

– “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein’s famous quote. Feed your creativity with music and books.

– Persistence. “The law of imperceptible improvement.” Know that you’re making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

– Allow yourself to cry. Frustration is normal.

– “The value of irrational optimism.” Don’t lose hope.

– “Procrastination, to me, is fear: I fought ‘procrastifear” my entire career.”

– Action. Take a step, even if it’s small.

And finally, discipline is a trait that goes hand in hand with persistence. It has served Blackwood well.

“I never wait for inspiration or the muse,” he said. “I think it’s in us all the time.”

Katherine Valdez has a low threshold for pain, so she wrote “persistence” in black marker on her hand in lieu of getting a tattoo. Follow her @KatValdezWriter on Instagram and Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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  1. “I never wait for inspiration or the muse,” he said. “I think it’s in us all the time.”
    The secret to writing is to place your fingers on the keys and press down, one key at a time. My favorite quote on this subject comes from Peter DeVries: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

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