Motivation and the Writing Life (Part 5 of 8)
PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION ALONE ARE OMNIPOTENT
In the Bible, Jesus told the following story of the persistent widow: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” (Luke 18:2-5 NIV®).
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, once said during a memorial speech, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”[i] If you keep at this craft, if you answer the muse, satisfy the craving, whisper, cajole, and scream at the world on paper and online, and if you keep doing it over and over despite the rejections, despite the failures, despite the slow days, despite your fears and disbeliefs, despite yourself, you will succeed. Believe me. You may be your biggest critic, but you can also be your number one fan.
Now, you may have to change your definition of success. What do you want? To be a best-selling novelist? What if you don’t achieve that? Is your life a failure? I once saw a coffee cup proclaiming, “There’s no such thing as failure, only different degrees of success.” As Norman Vincent Peale said in his book The Power of Positive Thinking, “Set your goals, then aim ten percent higher.” But if you don’t hit your goals, so what? How’s that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote go? “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Each day is precious—live each one to the fullest on this journey to who we are. As Confuscious said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take your step today, and don’t stop until you draw your last breath—then become a human interest blogger in heaven! Who said your career had to end when you hit the grave?
Years ago I was inspired by two gentlemen who spoke at a Freelance Writers Network meeting in Fort Worth. John Posey, editor and publisher of The African American Literary Review at the time, had been writing seriously and steadily for only four years. In addition to his successful magazine, he’d had numerous book reviews and articles published, and was working on a play. Dan McGraw, an associate editor for U.S. News and World Report at the time, had been writing for only three years. Prior to that he was a cab driver in Cleveland, and it had taken him two months to write his first 800-word story.
The day I listened to both of those guys speak, back in 1995 at the age of 31, I’d already been writing for eighteen years, since age 13. By 1995 I’d sold nine articles, I was writing a monthly newsletter column, I’d won two short story contests, and I’d co-written, illustrated and self-published You Might be a Writer, and had been asked by two agents and an editor to submit book proposals for both my novel and my non-fiction book. Since then I’ve established a blog, written and published two books, and am currently working on six more. At the same time.
What if I’d have listened to the world and had given up? I’d never know what I could have done, or how far my writing career could have gone. Og Mandino, in his book The Greatest Salesman in the World, said, “The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal. Failure I may still encounter at the thousandth step, yet success hides behind the next bend in the road. Never will I know how close it lies unless I turn the corner.” I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep taking those steps, turning those corners, even if they lead directly into a brick wall. Someone may come along and give me a boost over it.
(Next up: The Myth of Writers Block)
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes