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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes


I interviewed weightlifting coach and author Greg Everett about his career, what inspires him, and the writing of his latest book, Tough.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m a bit tricky to summarize—I’m a world championships level weightlifting coach who earns a living producing instructional content for athletes and coaches, from books to video to articles to seminars. But I’ve done a number of other things from working on an ambulance to running an independent literary press, and was a national championship level weightlifter and Tactical Games competitor, as well as a general outdoorsman. I’ve been writing books in multiple genres for over 20 years now.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

Probably in my teenage years. Writing was something that came fairly naturally to me, and it appealed to me because I found it to be the most effective way to communicate my ideas.

Greg Everett, author of Tough, interview on The Table Read
Greg Everett

When did you take a step to start writing?

Seriously when I was 18 I believe… admittedly that time of my life is disconcertingly blurry, but I had written a couple books by the time I was 20.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Again, this is tough for me to remember clearly, but I think it was a few months of writing and editing, and I released it very quickly—in retrospect with far more experience and what I’d like to consider wisdom, too quickly. One of the serious drawbacks of self-publishing is the tendency to rush a book’s release because of the absence of editorial oversight, and immediately wanting to dramatically revise the entire thing.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

In one sense, 11 years; in another, about 1 year. I originally had a very vague idea about it and took some notes back in 2011, but left it untouched until. I picked it up again in early 2020 after having some fresh ideas and committed to working on it. I was offered a publishing deal from a big New York company… and ended up turning it down. There were a number of reasons for that decision, but primarily I had a bad feeling about the direction they wanted to take it, and the work was too important to me to accept editorial changes that in reality only serve a marketing purpose. I had been finishing the book while my agent was shopping the proposal, and it took 3 months to complete with daily writing. Once it was complete, I was able to release about 4 months later, which is the beauty of having complete control—you’re not stuck waiting a year and a half for a publisher to go through a bloated process.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Tough?

I felt compelled to share a lot of what I’ve learned over the years through a broad range of experiences, challenges, accomplishments, failures and interactions with an unusually varied collection of people—this is a topic broadly that many people come to me for help with, and which I’m always working on with the athletes I coach, so I wanted to put together a coherent, organized presentation that would be accessible to more people.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Tough?

The imposter syndrome I felt during much of the process. This is the kind of book that’s typically written by people of very different backgrounds, and while I knew my experiences provided me the insight I needed to say what I did, I was concerned about how my credibility would be viewed by readers. There may plenty of skeptical people out there, but those who have actually read the book are overwhelmingly on board.

Greg Everett, author of Tough, interview on The Table Read

What was your research process for Tough?

Essentially none—it was written based on my personal experiences and the resulting insights. What outside sources I used were more to provide additional authority and credibility after the fact, i.e. quotes from psychologists, philosophers and people whose adverse experiences allowed them to develop the unique perspective that bolstered what I was communicating.

How did you plan the structure of Tough?

Extremely loosely initially—a very broad, simple outline, and then notes as they came to mind (at unexpected times throughout the day), which I gradually organized into sections based on topic until I had somewhat logically ordered collection.

Once I had that, I was able to start seeing a way to make the information flow from start to finish, and expanded the outline to include what would be chapters with each section and headings within each chapter. For me, it’s never a rigid stepwise process—it’s a bit dialectical in the sense that I bounce back and forth between creating and refining the overall structure with writing specific pieces.

The #1 Writing Tool

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Tough need?

I edited myself as I’ve done with all of my books. I have enough experience as an editor outside of my own work to do a competent job, and I’m both impatient and protective of my work, which makes using an outside editor a nightmare. I edit pretty thoroughly as I write (for example, with this last book, each day I sat down to write, I’d start by going back through whatever I’d written the previous day and revising/editing), so the process is quick overall.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Read a lot, and read a variety of genres—especially ones totally unrelated to the one you write. Always hear what you’re writing—writing is communication, and speech is the most intimate and compelling form of communication. Write like you’re personally speaking to the reader—that doesn’t mean you need to write casually, it just means you’re presenting the book in a way that reads fluidly and allows the reader to move through it without confusion or being distracted by awkward grammar. It’s not a bad idea to literally read your work aloud—these problems will stand out immediately.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I took some notes in my phone during one of my recent flights on a potential new one, but to be honest, I’m not yet convinced it’s something I want to pursue… I may need to sit on it for 10 years first like this last one.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I am. After a dozen books in the past 20 years, I’ve still never put one out that I’m perfectly satisfied with—there’s always something I could have done better—but this comes the closest, and seeing the overwhelmingly positive feedback it’s gotten and hearing stories about how it’s changed people’s lives, I’m as content as I expect to ever be with a book, and have no doubt it was worth the effort.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:


IG: @becomingtough, @catalystathletics

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