by Chiron O’Keefe
“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” --Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Perseverance is a word that stumbles on the tongue. It’s not at all like the word Passion. Passion sounds juicy and gorgeous and bursting with flavor. Passion. Yum.
Writers imagine the process of composing is simply a matter of the right amount of passion. As if each story dangles like ripe fruit just yonder out of reach. Snap it off the branch and there you go!
The desire to carve a story out of thin air is certainly our greatest motivation. Passion moves us to reach beyond the known and imbues us with the courage to venture into the dark landscape of our imagination. However it’s the less attractive relative—the one with the heavy backpack and sturdy walking shoes—who is more likely to successfully traverse that rocky path.
Without it, passion is never enough.
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” –Eddie Robinson
When the clouds of winter finally roll back from the sky and the delicate warmth of spring trickles in, the urge to plant seizes me. Oh, how I love to stroll among the potted flowers, inspecting each tag and imagining how the fragrant blossoms will color my back deck. I diligently purchase fertilizer and potting soil and browse the new array of containers. Ah, yes. My enthusiasm starts to wane after the first few hours of potting. *snort*
My back aches from bending over and the multitude of plastic containers I purchased now strikes me as overkill. The initial passion fades and there’s only one thing that keeps me going. Perseverance. Especially because I often change my mind as to Which Plant Goes Where, forcing me to start over until I’m ready to scream.
“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” --F. Scott Fitzgerald
With every story, the initial concept may change as the pages pile up. The work is endless and like the wary gardener, the realization that some portions of our budding tale might need to be yanked out can freeze us in our tracks. We become paralyzed with our need for perfection. Our need to be on the Right Track can lead to us riding the brakes. Let me assure you, every writer experiences that same fear. What if we get up to chapter 13 only to discover that the last few chapters aren’t what we envisioned at all?
Our ability to write depends on our willingness to put in the time and to let ourselves make mistakes. Ever watch a toddler learning how to toddle? Falling down is inevitable. Getting up again is a choice.
“Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong.” --Jeffrey A. Carver
When the seed of a story first appears in our mind, the fervor to capture that delicious tale can lead to a satisfying burst of activity. Yet at some point the magnitude of the task at hand overwhelms our enthusiasm. The realization that the seed might take months (or even years) to grow and bear fruit can be daunting.
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” --Walter Elliott
“Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” --Earl Nightingale
The fact is all writers struggle to finish the books they start. And every single book you’ve ever read, enjoyed or admired was written one page at a time. Too often we judge ourselves because we measure our accomplishment with a critical eye.
Yet each page is an accomplishment to celebrate. While it’s true that my back deck isn’t finished until all my flowers are potted in their respective containers, each plant stands alone. Every single page counts. As you read this essay, one or more quotes might just strike your fancy. Which shows how vital and significant every sentence can be.
“I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.” --Gordon Lish
We must stay true to our vision. The only way to bring our passion to life is to buckle down and churn out one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more page…
“He conquers who endures.” –Persius
What’s truly heartbreaking is how the fear can not only slow our pace but also lead to a crippling dis-ease called Insecurity. We think to ourselves, Real writers don’t have this problem. If I was a truly talented author I’d be zipping through the pages without blinking an eye.
May I just say, “Hah!”
“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” --Thomas Foxwell Buxton
The greatest minds out there achieve success not because they’re so freaking brilliant the stars blush trying to sparkle as brightly. No, ma-am. Not at all. Those who achieve lasting success are those who persevere. All books are written One Page At A Time.
“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” --Jacob A. Riis
The authors who get published, who find agents, who hit the bestseller list, all have one trait in common. Perseverance. They pushed until they typed 'The End'. They polished and revised until the book was irresistible. They sent out queries until the Right Agent said, “Let’s Go!” They kept writing and promoting their books until they reached that coveted dream. Just like you, just like me, they reached for the stars. And just like you, and just like me, they persevered. We Can Do It!
“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” --Charles F. Kettering
One sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time. We can do it. We WILL do it because (let’s say it together) We Are Writers!
And don’t forget:
“Keep in mind that the person to write for is yourself. Tell the story that you most desperately want to read.” –Susan Isaacs
Let’s support our perseverance with a visualization exercise. Remember, our subconscious works with our conscious mind to help us create the exact reality we desire. Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize the exact situation you yearn for. I’m typing The End! I’m getting “the call”! I can *see* my book on the bestseller list!
"Man is what he believes." --Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)
Have a wonderful writing week!
Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between the Lines.