Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Praise of Persistence

Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent. We love its flash and dazzle. But great power lies in the other ninety-nine percent. ‘It’s not that I’m so smart, said Einstein who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”

Susan Cain
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking

There are so many quotable moments in the book Quiet by Susan Cain, I could spend the next six months using them as blogger fodder (btw, I love that term!). But today this passage spoke to me.


We all advocate for it as writers. It’s one of the three P’s of publishing for me: Passion + Persistence = Published. But how eloquently Cain describes it! It’s not glitzy, it’s quite boring and almost designed to drive a soul to drink sometimes but it’s oh, so necessary if we are to get ahead in life – and not just for writing.

Daughter 2 was getting quite discouraged over her part-time summer job search. She’d been looking and submitting her resume for months but nobody was calling. Her self-esteem was slowly being whittled away because of the lack of reward for her efforts. She was close to abandoning the search but, lo and behold, she got a call for an interview a couple of weeks ago and was offered the job yesterday. Persistence, not giving up, paid off for her. But, more importantly, because she didn’t get a job right away, she truly appreciates the opportunity for work more now. She will not take this job for granted because it did not come easy. I think she’ll be a better employee because of it.

And so it is with the journey to publication. Your reward may not happen immediately but when it eventually does, the reward will taste that much sweeter for having taken a while to get to. Think about it. Do you HAVE to get an offer today? Would you be any less happy if it came in six months? Or six years?

As the Einstein quote stated, if you stay with a problem longer, you will become smarter. You will be a better writer because in the length of time that you are waiting you are also studying, connecting, crafting and developing expertise. Remind yourself daily that persistence is your friend. Embrace him well.