Heading into a new year, we here at Write Despite have been thinking a lot about perseverance. Lately it seems that this quality, more than any other, is responsible for whatever good fortune we’ve had. We consulted Merriam-Webster for an exact definition.
Perseverance: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
That’s about as accurate a description of the writing life as we’ve ever heard. But we thought we’d ask our old writer friend Hardy Jones, author of “Every Bitter Thing” (still love that title), to weigh in.
Please post a comment on Write Despite about an instance in your own writing life when perseverance has paid off—whether it’s an acceptance letter or nailing the perfect sentence. Hardy will select one respondent to receive a free copy of “Every Bitter Thing.”
“Perseverance and the Writing Life”
Why write and continue to do so when one’s attempts have been met with rejection? Early in one’s writing life, perseverance—it could be argued—is one’s greatest trait. Writing can always be improved, but not if a burgeoning author throws in the towel before that writing has blossomed.
Gustave Flaubert said, “Writing is a lonely life, but the only life worth living.” Writing is lonely; it is you, your ideas, and (most commonly) a computer. The daily grind of writing can be lonely, but this is why it imperative that an author love his or her profession. Remember: No one forced you to be a writer. You can walk away at any moment. While the act of writing can be lonely, the life of a writer does not have to be lonely. Teachers, mentors, friends (authors and non-authors), and family can provide a support network. One must remember that, in the end, it is you and your ideas sitting alone that will create your story, poem, and eventually your book. If one perseveres.
Alfred Kazin said, “In every real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas is a curious anticlimax.” Presumably we all write to publish, to see our work in print, and to have an audience. But keep in mind that even the most prolific authors write more than they publish. Therefore, it is the act of writing that must sustain us, not seeing our name and work in a journal or on a bookshelf. As long as you enjoy your work (enjoy does not mean you are always happy with it, but the process is not deflating), are learning about yourself, then you are growing as a writer.
While the world tells us we cannot write, while the world tells us to focus on more realistic goals, while we tell ourselves we cannot do it…remember that perseverance will get us through those angst-filled moments.
11 thoughts on “Persevere and Win a Free Book!”
Thank you for this peep talk. I really needed to read it.
So far, perseverance has manifested itself mainly in the idea of writing. I confess that I didn’t make the 20 minutes a day for long, but I’ve also not given up completely. I’ve written a number of stories; I’m kicking around the idea for a book; I’ve often revisited my MA thesis (a personal essay) with an eye of finding a publisher, and I’ve ramped up my daily afternoon Starbucks writing sessions.
But I’ve not made any effort whatsoever to publish anything. So, with the help of “Write Despite”, my goal for the new year is to actually put an effort into publishing something … and, of course, to keep on writing!
The fact that a friend in Houston (Melanie Bragg; “Crosstown Park”) just published her first book and I got to attend her book party at Barnes & Noble, and that Karen and Kirsten will also be published this year, is very encouraging and goes a long way toward making it all seem … REAL 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement!
Hmm. I need to think about this one. The obvious answer would be my book which I revised umpteen times, but there are so many other things, too. Stories I sent out again and again. My MFA thesis, which I finished long distance while pregnant and working a full time job. I’m sure there are more I’ve forgotten.
Thanks to all of you for weighing in. Your stories are inspiring enough to get us thinking we need to revisit those stories we shoved in the back of the filing cabinet, or finish those last few chapters, or submit to yet another journal, or do one more damned rewrite of this damned book. Hardy, you’ve got your work cut out for you!
Well, perseverance paid off for me when I was asked to write a parenting column for a local online forum. I would painstakingly write something worthy week after week and receive very little feedback or acknowledgment that anyone was actually reading it … no comments, sharing, etc. I was not getting paid, so really, what was the point? One week I posted a piece I rushed through with barely any thought. You can read it here: http://mintsinmymotherspurse.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html. For some cosmic reason, it went viral (relatively speaking anyway) and I gained an instant audience and negotiated a paying gig. I’m glad I didn’t give up.
I’m thinking about perseverance two ways: writing and submitting. First, on writing, the post says it all: for an extrovert like me with the mountain of responsibilities on my plate, writing is a lonely life for which I sacrifice much. But when the story is right and friends have a positive experience or dare I say joy upon reading it, persevering is worth it. Second, on submitting note I didn’t write “on publishing.” Despite a number of good reads I still haven’t published and does it bother me? Yes. Do I keep trying? Yes. I am just the sort of person driven to create, not to consume. I want my stories and books published in the end because I have created these for others’ pleasure and I will continue to submit, submit, and persevere.
Still waiting for it to pay off, but I’m sure it will….
I have always believed what Confucius had to say about perseverance : ““It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” and it has always helped me in my writing.
Perseverance IS key. It’s the driving force behind every book–from creation to submission to shameless promotion once it’s published. No one’s going to do it for you!
Sending out a story 34 times before it was accepted by a tiny lit mag. Crazy, but it felt great in the end.
Perseverance does pay off. For me, it happened when I just kept plugging away at a short story that I didn’t know how to end. I must have tried 10 different endings, none of them work. It months for me to end the thing. And when the right ending finally did come to me, it made it all worth it. To this day, the story is one of the best things I’ve done. Re-reading it when my writing’s not going great always reminds me that I do have something to say.