There were five of us and we paid the Grandmaster $150 to teach us to be better chess players but wait, don't run away. It's not about chess, it's about being better writers. So after half an hour or so later, he said, "Look, I feel bad about this, but none of you are ever going to get much better. You're not committed and you're lazy. Seriously. How many hours do you study every week? How many games to you play strenuously?" We got a little upset about this, because, after all, we were paying him. One of us, I can't remember who, said, "It's not the time, it's the quality that counts." It sounded like a good reply until the Grandmaster responded, "See, that's why you are never going to be much better. If you're going to develop a muscular brain, it's the time and the quality of training that counts, but even that's not enough. You have to lay it on the line all the time. You have to be committed to the game." We had lives, of course, so that was the end of that. Looking back, I can see it's the same with writers. Generally speaking, our writing brains are flabby because we're part timers. We don't develop writing muscles because we don't work at it until we sweat. Most of us don't lay it on the line for our writing. We have lives, after all. We want the head and spiritual muscles, but we're not willing to truly extend ourselves because it's scary. In martial arts belt systems, there is the term TIG, which means time in grade. Before you can get a 2nd degree black belt, you must be 2 years as a first degree. To get to third degree black belt, you must be 3 years as a second degree and so on. The writing life is sometimes like that, we need to develop confidence through effort and time. We need TIG to develop the security to extend ourselves. But Time in Grade is no substitute for sustained effort. Working at it is the crux of things. Have you experienced the same? Do you see a change in your head muscularity as you work harder at the craft, network more, and attend the conferences to learn? Are you getting stronger through the effort, or are you fading because you're just doing Time in Grade? Or is it all just a matter of talent? Really, how committed are you to your writing?