There are many examples of persistence in nature because persistence is part of survival. But as humans we have choices about persistence that don’t have to do only with survival.
Several years ago I had knee surgery to smooth out a slightly torn meniscus. With physical therapy I managed over time to continue to do long distance running and still run marathons. I’m certainly slower than I was prior to the surgery; but I’ll keep on running if I can because I love it. With age, injury, and wear and tear, it’s inevitable that the human body slows down, breaks down.
One thing I love about writing is that barring any major physical or mental impairments, you can keep improving forever.
My recipe for improvement has one simple ingredient: Persistence.
For me, persistence means:
- Not wasting whatever amount of time I’ve created in my life to write, i.e. showing up.
- And, to paraphrase Laurie Halse Anderson: asking how I can make what I’ve written better instead of looking at it and saying this is pretty good.
- Even after I’ve done many revisions, be willing to do more. (In other words, keep applying point number two from above.)
I’ve heard a couple of successful writers proclaim the following myth: if you don’t have what it takes to write, i.e. talent, you never will. Quit wasting your time.
In contrast, James Scott Bell, in his book, Plot and Structure, referred to this as the Big Lie. He spent several years of his life believing the Big Lie before he realized that he could learn how to write fiction. Now, as you probably know, he’s published over twenty books.
Needless to say, I agree with James Scott Bell!
What does persistence look like for you?
Paul Greci is the author of Surviving Bear Island, a 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection and a 2016 Scholastic Reading Club Selection.