Friday, February 18, 2011


The other day I blogged about how important focus and finishing projects were, not only to writers, but all of us. Let me add today a third critical ingredient - sticking to it or perseverance.

I am not exaggerating when I say I've met many fine writers who were beginners just like I was many years ago. We shared stories, shared writing classes and writers groups, shared dreams of getting published and interacting with a reading audience.

Few of them are writing or publishing today, decades later.

Why not? Were their stories no good? Actually, a number of them had fine story ideas. Were their writing skills poor? Quite the opposite, most of them had exceptional writing skills and exceptional talent. Were they unable to stay on task and get stories and books finished? No, they completed their projects, they got their stories down on paper with beginnings, middles, and ends.

So what happened?

They gave up.

They got tired of submitting manuscripts that were rejected, weary of looking for literary agents to represent them, exhausted hoping some editor, some place, somewhere would recognize they could write well and give them a break.

Finally, one day, they packed it in and rarely, if ever, wrote creatively again.

Am I am where I am as a writer today because I was more talented or skilled or creative than them? No. Many of them had extraordinary writing abilities. Perhaps more doors opened for me more quickly? Not at all - I have had just as many disappointments and rejected manuscripts and failed promises from publishing houses as anyone else, maybe more, because I knocked on so many doors hoping for a breakthrough. Perhaps I had more blessings from God than they did in the area of writing? Well, I have had my blessings all right, I thank God, but I have been handed plenty of struggles too, at least four or five for every open door and every solid publishing opportunity. Nothing has come easy, nothing was handed to me - nothing. I fought and prayed and struggled for every inch of my publishing history.

The difference between me and the others is I never gave up. Call it stubborn, call it tenacious, or call me obstinate and crazy and thick-skinned, I simply put my head down and plowed ahead. No, I wasn't always cheerful and I wasn't always positive something good would happen and I wasn't always sure God was in it, but I kept going anyway.

Very, very few things have happened quickly in my writing or in my life or in my Christian faith. Most things that have been good things have happened because I kept, somehow, believing, and I kept, somehow, forging ahead.

Don't quit the important things, don't let go of the things you were called to, don't stop because a thousand doors have shut you out.

Stick. Persevere. Keep praying, keep hoping, keep trying. If you can't do it with a glad heart do it anyway, do it because you believe in what you're doing. Never mind looking for fancy feelings or fancy words to encourage you or exceptional signs from God that will give you a boost. Sometimes God intervenes in big ways to keep you motivated - more on that in another blog - but most of the time you have to move forward on faith, and if you can't do that, you won't move forward at all.

There is love and grace for you if you drop out. And there is love and grace for you if you persevere. And there is love and grace for you if you succeed. Regardless of what occurs or what you do, there will be a tomorrow and other opportunities of various kinds, other ways and means of living your life out wonderfully and gloriously on this earth.

But if you want certain things to happen, if they matter to you enough, you have to stick. And if you write because writing and publishing matter to you enough and you want to have your stories and books in print, you have to stick. And if you want to see the hand of God in your life more clearly and obviously, you have to stick.

Kierkegaard called it "a long obedience in the same direction".

In this quick and easy world of so-called overnight success and instant gratification and no-effort attainments and accomplishments this long obedience to God, and the things of God and the things God puts it in you to do and be, is the one thing that is still most worthwhile and the one thing that can grant you the most satisfaction, depth, understanding, richness, and life.

Keep a good grip on it.

1 comment:

EMP said...

"A long obedience in the same direction": yes!

Thank you, MP. How do you always know just what to post when I need it most? I am cheerful at what I do--love my life's diverse facets--but just this week I asked myself if it was all worth it.

I have always loved writing--since I was 7--and gladly, joyfully share my weekly letters and poems and small pieces with anyone interested (and several who aren't, as it turns out), but this very week I wrote to EB and told him I didn't need to get anything published.

"I'm just going to write, and enjoy the process," I said. Encourage others. Give up seeing my own books in print.

And you know what? That's fine, too. But write I must. It's oxygen to me. And your recent posts have kept me hoping, working, sticking to it....