If I had to pick one characteristic that I think is most important in helping writers make it to publication (particularly traditional publication), I’d have to say PERSEVERANCE. Yes, creativity, talent, skill, passion, learning, and growing are all essential too. However, we can have all the others, but without perseverance—especially in today’s tight market—we’ll likely let our discouragement trick us into giving up too soon.
This past fall, I had the opportunity to go out to lunch with some writer friends when I was in Toledo, Ohio for a book signing. During the course of lunch, we got to lamenting the lengthiness of all the waiting writers have to do. One of the ladies, Jill Kemerer, shared her discouragement over the length of time she’d been seriously pursuing publication, querying, and waiting for an agent or editor to take an interest in her stories and writing. She’d been working hard at it for years.
As we talked, we skirted around the unspoken question, “How long should a writer keep on trying before calling it quits?” I’d had the privilege to read some of Jill’s writing and knew how talented she was. In fact, she’d already had one agent ask for the full of her book. Even so, I couldn’t presume to know what would be best for her future. But I encouraged her to keep on trying.
Only a few short weeks later, I opened my inbox to find the kind of email that makes your heart stop for an instant then stutter forward at twice the speed. It was from Jill and the title said: “Good news!!” In her email she went on to say, “I just got an e-mail from Rachel Kent of Books & Such. She loved my book! She wants to have a phone conversation with me next Wednesday to discuss the possibility of representing me!!!!”
And now, after years of working hard, waiting expectantly, and persevering through discouragement, Jill is officially represented by agent, Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary, a highly reputed agency. What would have happened if Jill had given up a year ago, six months ago, or even that lunch date when I’d sensed her deep discouragement?
The lesson for all of us is that the path to traditional publication is especially rough. And often, perseverance is what separates the wannabe published from the successfully published.
But what is perseverance, exactly? And how can we make it work for us? Here are my thoughts on the main ingredients of PERSEVERANCE:
*Dreaming: We need to picture ourselves as published authors. Envision it. See the future. Toss away doubts. And embrace the dream whole-heartedly.
*Believing: Let the picture of being published take reality in our minds. Have the confidence to know we can do whatever we set our hearts to do.
*Planning: Establish realistic goals. Make a writing schedule. Read a couple of “how-to” books. Give our imagination space to create the story.
*Working: Plant our butt in a chair. Keep it in the chair. And make our fingers move over the keyboard until the day’s goal is met.
*Persisting: Stick to the plan. Write when sick or tired. Write when distracted, lazy, sad, and discouraged. Write when the words flow or when they trickle.
*Enduring: When we feel like giving up, don’t. When we’re sure we’ll never get a step further, keep walking. And when feel like our dreams are crashing down around us, start the perseverance process all over again.
Will there ever come a time in a writer’s life when they should quit? I think each of us has to decide that on an individual basis depending on our unique situations. However, I don’t think we should make the decision to quit based on the discouragement of the moment or the hardship of the situation. It’s much easier to quit when the going gets rough. That’s our natural inclination—to go for the easy, painless way.
But usually, real growth happens during the most painful times. We can let the difficulties motivate us to learn more, work harder, and keep growing. It’s by persevering through the long distance run that we can come out stronger on the other side. And it's only by sticking with it, that we'll be able to finally reach our destination.
What about you? Have you ever been tempted to give up because it seems too hard? What do you tell yourself to help you keep going?