Writing Success Requires Persistence

Robert Grudin, in his lovely book, Time and the Art of Living, encourages writers to not be discouraged by, among other things, “editors who discard literary proposals because, ‘That is not what people are reading these days.’ Writers who suffer from this intimidating illusion would do well to remember the following:”

“The published writing of a given era, no matter how comprehensive it may seem to be, is generally based on shared assumptions, and therefore suffers from common weaknesses. 

“The surface of the human condition, vexed and driven by change, incessantly demands new patterns of art.

“While the reading public and those who purvey to it may seem to dominate the present, the future is the domain of sincere and persistent individuals.”

In my coaching work, I have found that persistence is the primary indicator of whether someone will be successful in writing. Writing is a craft that can be learned. There are rules to writing, and they are not difficult to learn, though practicing and mastering them can take time. But once you learn the rules, you know how to write. Yes, there are some people for whom writing and words just seem to come naturally. We often say those people are talented. But there are many others of us who can be equally successful in writing simply by learning the craft, applying hard work and, yes, being persistent.

It’s easy to become discouraged. Rejection slips; family and friends who say things like, “When are you going to get a real job” (a friend actually once said those very words to me); finding time to write amid the demands of daily life. It all adds up to tremendous pressure, and many would-be writers give up their dreams.

But those who don’t, those who persist despite the odds, they are the ones who are most likely to succeed. If you don’t keep sending out your short stories or poems to literary magazines, or you give up pitching nonfiction story ideas to editors, or you get discouraged because you haven’t found an agent yet who loves your novel as much as you do, if you don’t finish the novel in the first place, failure is guaranteed. Because you have removed opportunity for success.

You know the old joke about the guy who prays every day to win the lottery? After years of praying, one day God, exasperated, says to him, “Harry, give me a chance and buy a ticket!”

So, writers, go buy a ticket.