Writing and Perseverance
I have not blogged much lately. Work has been busy and we went on a two-week holiday to lovely Sedona. I have also been experimenting to see what my life would be like if I put work first and pushed writing to the far back of my priorities. Not at all uncomfortable it would seem.
Despite making good progress on my third novel, riding the rejection route with my other two has been disheartening to say the least. Not that it has been all bad. I have had a nibble and a couple of nice rejection letters. But it has been enough to make me question whether the whole thing is worth it. My consulting work is valued and appreciated. Why not put my energies into that?
The more one stumbles into the writing world, the more one realizes that there are so many people that are trying to be writers. Add to that the people who are being creative with words in some other manner on-line or locally and I really have to wonder if everyone is ‘creating’, who is listening.
Moreover, after participating in an evening of local writers at the Rouge Gallery a few weeks ago, I am struck by how talented a lot of our local writers are. Two of the women reading that night are published writers and several of the other six writers read entertaining and well composed pieces. I have had similar revelations listening to local musicians. Many of them are very good, extraordinary even. I won’t even go into the fantastic art that was on the walls in the Rouge Gallery. Is our small town a haven for struggling artists, or are other small towns equally populated by talented individuals? I suspect both. But my main conclusion is that there are a lot of very talented people out there.
I am reading an excellent book entitled Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy. The book offers intelligent and balanced advice about understanding what you are really meant to do in this world. However I question the notion of having a calling. I find it interesting that most of the cases that Levoy describes are people who want to be writers, spiritual leaders, or coaches. He has not yet referred to a single call seeker who wanted to be a mechanic, farmer, grocery clerk or a doctor. Do we all want to keep our hands clean and sit uninterrupted at our desks for hours in our pajamas with our cat? It is an appealing idea (at least to me, the creative introverted type), but we can’t all do that, especially if you don’t have a cat. Maybe those of us who hear ‘calls’ are just more entitled, selfish, and able financially to go on pilgrimages to find ourselves, or pursue careers that are less lucrative than being a lawyer or an accountant.
Which brings me back to the original topic of this post, which was to be about perseverance. We all know the rule if you want to be successful in the writing world: Be persistent, be patient, don’t give up, many successful writers were rejected countless times. There are many great blog posts on this, such as those by Claire De Boer, and Ellen Jackson. As Ellen Jackson observes, “Success as a writer depends more on intelligent persistence than on raw talent.” Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.” Indeed.
Of course we all know you have to show up, you have to write, you have to finish whatever you are writing, you have to edit it, you have to figure out who might be accepting the kind of thing you are writing, you have to determine what their submission requirements are, and then you have to send your out writing in accordance with their requirements. Add to that the need to tweet, blog, and post on Facebook. Those are the basic requirements for even getting on the writing gameboard and they all require perseverance.
But that does not change the fact that there are many good or decent writers out there, including many right here where I live apparently. They are all in their pajamas with their cats right now. As a result, getting your work published, unless you are lucky, requires a whole different level of perseverance than that which I outlined above. The question is does the world need more writers?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the written word. Novels, poems and essays are the most important things in the world as far as I am concerned. But there are already more wonderful books, poems and essays in the world than I will ever be able to even consider reading. With the advent of blogging and self-publishing, we are even further awash with words. While I am all for having the opportunity to read a diversity of opinions and styles, have we reached a point of information overload in which few people even finish reading what they started?
In thinking about this piece I checked into what other writers have to say about perseverance. I came across a post selling a book about being the writer that you were meant to be. The post reads: “Every day, writers fail at one important task: being who they are. They succumb to their own doubts and don’t embrace their natural gifts and talents that the world desperately needs.” I am just not sure about this. The world desperately needs a lot of things: people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work with troubled youth, clean up littered streets, maintain community gardens, cook meals, take care of the sick, make things…. Writing about these things is important and somebody needs to do that too. But we need more people doing things than writing about them.
And before any writers want to throttle me on this: Some writers should absolutely write. Their gifts to the world are required. Moreover, some writers contribute significantly to their community both by doing and by writing. Everyone should try writing for themselves on occasion for the contribution it makes to one's well being and thoughtfulness. But there is no denying that good writing takes time, and for some people, perhaps that time would be better spent doing something else.
Which I guess brings me back to the question of perseverance in a way. I had perhaps thought my issues related to whether I could persevere. But perhaps my more fundamental question relates to whether I should. Of course, I don’t want to upset my cat.
Photo Credit: majcher via Compfight http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/