Mat Morris first appeared on RSP back in Episode #40 on how to write a lot more and faster. Now he’s back with Nancy Elliott, his co-host of the new daily! Author Strong podcast. Not only are they co-hosts, but they are also mentor and mentee. This week I talk to Mat and Nancy about the benefits of mentorship.
Meet Mat and Nancy
Mat Morris — if that is his real name — is a full-time writer and publisher, but he is best known for completing the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month — only he did it in a 24-hour period, once in 2013, and a mind-boggling three times in November of 2014! (His total word count for the month, for those who are counting, was 170,000 words!) While his work is published under secret pen names in different genres — don’t ask, he won’t tell — he is incredibly open and generous in sharing his expertise with other writers. He even live-streamed his Herculean feats of fiction, sharing his progress on social media while keeping up with his word counts…and even getting 9 or 10 miles in on his treadmill desk…all in 24 hours.
Nancy Elliott is a lifelong writer who has recently gotten serious about making it her full-time career. She sought out Mat’s guidance during NaNoWriMo last November, and since then, has made tremendous strides towards her goal.
Mentor and Mentee: A Beautiful Friendship
In 2014, Nancy decided it was to get serious about her writing career. She realized, “If I don’t do something about it, I’m going to be that person that I don’t want to be at the end of my life that didn’t do anything.” So she decided to seek out the advice and guidance of someone who had already realized the kind of success she wanted to achieve. She asked her fellow writers in her local NaNoWriMo group who she might talk to, and many fingers pointed to Mat. So she reached out and asked for help.
Mat was more than willing to help push Nancy towards her goals with coffee-shop meetings and early-morning cheerful texts reminding her to get on it. Before long, Nancy retired her night owl ways and now gets up at 5:00 a.m., getting her most important work done early in the morning before she heads out to her day job, effectively frontloading her day with a solid morning routine. She reports that she is getting close to her goal of quitting her day job.
Since meeting six months ago, Mat and Nancy now co-host together their recently launched daily podcast focused on giving a hand up to fellow writers through author interviews, topic-driven podcasts, and tutorials. A daily podcast is a murderous schedule, but Mat has a very specific long-term vision for Author Strong:
“It’s called Author Strong for a reason. I want authors, writers to realize that they are in charge of their own kind of dreams, their own career. There’s nothing else — especially in today’s world — there is literally no one that will stop them from putting something out there. Nobody. They can do it. And what I want to bring to them is, I want to show them — I want to give them the tools to say, if you want to do it, here it is. You know, here’s the Promised Land. I’ll give you directions. I’ll give you a map. All you gotta do is follow it. That’s my long-term goal.”
When asked why he chose Nancy, who is at the beginning of her author career, to co-host, Mat said she was the perfect choice. She’s willing to challenge him, she’s an active reader, she’s been writing for years — she has all the traits to be a successful writer. He felt she was the perfect person that he wanted to do Author Strong for, so it was a no-brainer to bring her on board.
What It Takes
After almost a month and a half, Author Strong is 43 episodes strong and growing. Although Mat and Nancy are driven to help other authors, Mat tries to remember something Mimi Strong once told him: “You can’t make people do anything. All you can do is you can give them the information, but if they’re going to do anything with it, that’s on them.”
As far as a mentee’s responsibilities go, he also wants authors to keept in mind that if a mentor is going to take the time to help you, “you on the flip side need to make sure that you’re putting in the time to help yourself as well, and do what they tell you, and try things out, and then ask for more help. And you’ll be surprised how far you’ll get, and you’ll be surprised how willing they are to spend time on you.”
Mat on writing 50K words in a day, three times in a single month: “I wanted to show people that no matter how many days are left in the month, you can meet your goal. And it comes down to just putting your butt in the chair and write. Don’t sit there and tell yourself you don’t have enough time because that’s just wasting time. Just start writing.”
Mat on finding a mentor: “If you want a mentor, if you see someone doing what you want to be doing, just ask them. People are so willing to help if you just ask them.”
Nancy on approaching a mentor: “You just have to be brave enough to ask.”
Mat on the drive for success: “If you’re going to be a successful writer, if you’re going to be successful at anything, you need to have — you know, we talk about drive. You need to have a little bit of drive. You have to prioritize that in your life. It’s not going to happen by accident. It’s something that you need to actually do. And I think that a lot of people just don’t quite realize that. They don’t realize that to write a book you actually have to sit down and write a book. You can’t just think about it. Thinking about it doesn’t get anything written.”
Mat on the importance of moving forward: “Your book is never going to be perfect. Ever. And there will come a point where you’d need to put it down. And you’re not going to improve as a writer, and you’re not going to improve as a publisher either, until you get a book out and you move on to the next book.”
- Nail down that morning routine. Do whatever it takes to get your most important work done as early in the day as possible, consistently, and at the same time. As Nancy notes, the most common trait of successful authors they have interviewed is strict self-discipline: “It is hard work, but you’re not going to get that work done in the first place if you have not set up your life to accommodate reaching that goal.”
- Find a mentor. Look to the folks who are finding success doing what you want to do and just ask. Just be prepared to do the work: a mentorship is a two-way street.
- Just start. Do you have some big project or endeavor that you’ve been mulling over for some time now? Just start. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. You can make it awesome later, just get it started. Don’t know how to do certain parts? Don’t worry. You’ll learn on the way…but you have to start first.
- Set an outrageous short-term goal and go for it. It doesn’t have to be launching a daily podcast or writing 50K words in a single day, but if you’re used to writing 2,000 words a day, see if you can double it. Or triple it. Just go for it. The sky will accommodate the heights to which you will soar.
Have you ever had a mentor…or mentored somebody else? How was that experience? What advice would you give to someone seeking a mentor?
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