Discovering My Own “Process”

By Mike Krizman | September 16, 2019

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Writing Challenge Winners

Congratulations to 2019 “No Excuses” Writing Challenge Winner Mike Krizman!
Mike has been a communication professional in intercollegiate athletics for the past 16 years and enjoys reading science fiction and following the Chicago Cubs when he’s not chasing his twin 3-year old daughters around. Mike and his family live in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
Learn more about Mike in his essay below. 

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban preaches the “process.” He doesn’t worry about the end result – winning a national championship – but rather about the day-to-day focus toward achieving the ultimate goal.

It’s a strategy that’s led to six national titles in his career, including one at Louisiana State and five with the Crimson Tide.

As a sports fan, I’ve heard Saban preach about the “process” on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, I’ve never taken the time to listen and personally put his advice into action. Like a lot of people, I wanted to skip the process and go straight to fame and riches.

I always envisioned myself doing something special – never starring for Saban on the gridiron, but as the next great science fiction or fantasy writer. I’ve read all the greats: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke. I’ve seen the fame and fortune that came to people like Stephen King. I’ve studied the career of J.K. Rowling and how she developed Harry Potter into the worldwide phenomenon it is today (complete with its own theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL).

I’m even one of those “book snobs” who read George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series before Game of Thrones was even on HBO’s radar screen.

Reading and researching have always been the fun part. Where have I struggled? It’s the sitting down and actually writing. That takes work. That takes effort. I’m also the father of twin three-year-old daughters who works a full-time job. Having the discipline to actually sit down and write something (anything for that matter) has been my biggest hurdle.

On top of that, I’m probably the world’s biggest procrastinator. My full-time job is connected to the academic calendar, so my summers slow down a bit and allow for additional free time. For the past 10 years, I’ve said to myself that “this is going to be the summer that I really buckle down and write something.”

Unfortunately, there has been nothing.

Procrastination kicks in and by the time the evening rolls around, I’m in front of my phone going down a YouTube rabbit hole (are competitive eating videos really a thing?).

The summers came and went. Nothing but a white Microsoft Word document on a computer screen.

As a result, HBO isn’t beating down my door to turn my story into a scripted TV show. Universal Orlando has no plans to build a section of their theme park based on my creation.

It’s 10 years later and I’m still staring at a blank screen; that was until the summer of 2019.

Now, I still haven’t written the next great American novel, but last November, I discovered the copywriting business via a Facebook ad for the Barefoot Writer’s Club. After some research, I eventually purchased AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.

I immediately thought that this was the perfect opportunity to “get paid to write.” As a full-time communication professional and a former freelance newspaper reporter, getting paid to write has been my entire working life. What a great way to learn a new writing style while establishing a side hustle! It may or may not be a road map to writing the 21st century version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s at least a way to finally get me in front of a computer and write something not related to my regular job – and make a side income in the process!

It took an additional three months to open the Accelerated program and start working on it, but not before overcoming a nasty bout of procrastination that reared its ugly head yet again.

The same pattern formed as it had with my novel. “Come this summer, I am going to buckle down and put forth the effort and get this done,” I told myself. “This summer is going to be the one that finally gets me over the hump. Things are going to be different this time around.”

Saturday, June 1 came and went. Followed by Sunday, June 2.

“OK, it was the weekend,” I rationalized to myself. “I’ll have that one last ‘vacation’ before the real work begins on Monday.”

I worked a full day on Monday, June 3 at my regular job. I told myself the entire time that after getting the kids to bed, I was going to head downstairs, open my computer and start this course.

However, that particular evening turned into a two-hour marathon of a bedtime routine. The girls needed to get up to use the bathroom. Then they needed Band-Aids on their imaginary boo-boos – and no, they won’t fall asleep without them! That was followed by more back and forth movement between mom and dad’s bed and their own.

By the time they finally fell asleep, I was ready to collapse from exhaustion. At that moment, I had a choice: go downstairs and open the program, or put it off yet again and fall asleep.

The procrastination bug struck! It was looking like the summer of 2019 would be like the other ten.

Monday, June 3 ended with my grandpa’s life-long phrase: “tomorrow’s another day.” The cycle continued.

Then, my epiphany moment happened on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 4. I had received daily emails from copywriting pro Roy Furr and his Breakthrough Marketing Secrets for the past several months. I had read them faithfully each day, but it wasn’t until this particular afternoon that his message really resonated.

In his email, titled, “2 Big Marketing Breakthroughs, from the Grand Canyon,” he described a recent family trip to the Grand Canyon. Roy noted: “As the Colorado River cut through the high plateau in what’s now Arizona, it washed away dirt and rock at a rate of roughly the thickness of one piece of paper every year… for the last 6 million years.”

“The canyon depth increased over time due to the persistent movement of water,” he said, and it continues to grow deeper, with still another 1,000 feet to go until sea level.

With my interest piqued, I read on as Roy used the Grand Canyon as a metaphor for two “breakthroughs”: becoming a better marketer, and also, in the broader sense, developing your skills over the long term.

Now, I was mostly interested in the skill development breakthrough, as that was more in line with where I’m currently at in my career.

The Grand Canyon didn’t become a natural wonder in one day. It took 6 million years of erosion to form what we see today. Similarly, as Roy notes, the average person shouldn’t expect to see greatness overnight. It takes perfecting your craft little by little, building up over time, and taking action each day for a person to achieve new heights.

I immediately thought back to Coach Saban’s “process.”

Roy spoke this message to me at a time when I needed to hear it the most.

I was finally willing to admit what I already knew about myself – I wanted immediate success and didn’t want to take the time to put in the work. It was easier to dream about one day becoming successful rather than actually putting forth the effort to make that happen.

I’m not sure if it was a higher power or just pure coincidence that I received this email right at the moment where I was about to slip back into my old summer habits, but it was the message I needed to hear at that particular moment in time.

After putting the kids to bed that night, I walked downstairs, opened my computer and began reading part one of the program. The next night, I finished reading part one. Shortly after that, I started reading and copying down direct-response sales letters.

On weekends, I worked while my kids napped. On the 4th of July, I took 10 pages of notes while Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest played on ESPN in the background.

As I type this on July 31, I’m currently at a streak of 58 straight days where I have worked on my copywriting skills in some way, shape or form. It’s included reading a long-form direct-response sales letter every day. It’s included reading and taking notes on all five sections of the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. It’s also included researching for and writing the first of three sample sales letters for my portfolio.

I’ve committed myself to working on my copywriting business for at least 1-2 hours a night, no matter how tired I am. And over the course of roughly three months, I can look back and say that I’ve learned a new skill – by just doing a little bit at a time each day. I haven’t mastered anything yet, but the baby steps taken have built up tangible knowledge that I can apply to my business going forward.

I’ve also discovered a discipline in me that I never knew I had. I’ve proven to myself that I have what it takes to sit down for 58 straight days and commit to something not related to work or family.

Now, I’m not competing with The Martian writer Andy Weir at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. HBO is still not offering me royalties for a TV show. And Universal still hasn’t broken ground on a new theme park based on my novel. But I take solace in the fact that I have broken free of a habit that’s been holding me down for over a decade.

I may or may not write that novel someday, but I’m proud to say that the summer of 2019 has been the most productive of my adult life – and I don’t envision taking a day off until completing that first client project.

But again, I now understand it’s not going to happen overnight. You have to start somewhere and it begins with taking action and seeing it through each and every day.

I will continue to apply this process and in no time, my baby steps will form my own Grand Canyon!