Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Persistence and Determination: Cal Gets it Right


“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.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

Last Saturday, while we were out on our semi-regular date night, my husband and I discussed this quote as it pertained to both writing and bicycling.

Bob talked about reaching a plateau with his bike speed – about making steady, satisfying progress and then hitting a barrier he couldn’t seem to break. He follows blogs about biking just as I follow blogs about writing, and he said that people always want to know what they can do to break that barrier. They are looking for an exercise or a regimen that will get them the result they want (increased speed) in a designated amount of time. But the advice given is always the same:

Ride your bike a lot.

How long? How long until I see results?

The answer: It’s different for every person.

And this is true of writing, too.  Through blogging, I know many writers feel like they’ve hit a barrier they can’t break through, whether it’s finishing a complete manuscript, querying for representation, promoting a self-published book, or selling a book on submission. Even after you break through one of those barriers, it doesn’t mean your progress is steady from that point on. A sudden spurt of “increased speed” might very well be followed by another plateau.

A lot of people outside the writing world don’t know this. They think that once you publish a book your success is guaranteed. And if it doesn’t happen right away, then you must not be a good writer.

We ought to know better, although sometimes we forget. Yes, it does seem cosmically unfair when a 20-year old writer gets a choice of 10 competing agents and two weeks later lands a 6-figure deal based on a partial manuscript of a first book … to everyone except that writer. But there’s no point feeling envious or discouraged or – worst of all – giving up.

You just have to keep riding. Er … writing.

14 comments:

  1. My daughter's a swimmer and they reach those plateaus too. She had one last year for months and then finally got out of it during the high school swim season in a big way. You're right,persistence is the key.

    And it's the same with writing whether you're published or not. Sometimes things go well and at other times it's hard. We just have to persist and keep writing like you say. And support each other through the process.

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  2. Even though I have a MSc in exercise physiology, I'd never thought of it this way before when it comes to writing. You have a great point, Dianne. As does Natalie. :)

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  3. Dianne I LOVE this analogy!!! So apropos!

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  4. Great analogy! And I'm not a runner, but I imagine it's the same in that world as well :)

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  5. This is so true. An excellent reminder. I love it that your husband bikes : )

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  6. Perfect analogy. Plateaus are a part of any effort, and exactly where persistence is crucial. Not that they don't suck while you're there... *wry grin*

    I guess we just need to look at plateaus as opportunities to exercise our persistence muscles. ;)

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  7. Excellent analogy. I will continue to persist!

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  8. Like Linda said, I think plateaus exist for just about any endeavor. When learning Morse code, most people claimed to hit a plateau at 5 and/or 10 words per minute, which discouraged a lot of them from pushing through so they could pass the 20 WPM test. For some reason, I didn't hit those plateaus. Probably because I was too dumb to know about them.

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  9. So very true. I know a lot of people who think (almost demand) being killer success right out of the block and insisting there's no reason they can't be the next Jo Rowling. I'm willing to take my time seeing if I can grown a fan base.

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  10. I just finished Whatever Happened to Bernadette by Maria Semple and was reading her author blurb in the back and thinking the same thing. She's been at the business of writing for a LOONNNGG time. She finally has a best-selling book. Not to sound like a reality show contestant, but it's a journey!

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  11. Great insight, Dianne. Thanks. :)

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  12. I hear you! I just started working out in this bar exercise class. Just when you think an exercise can't challenge my muscles enough, the instructor will add on one extra thing to give me something more to sweat over.

    I certainly hope that my persistence will pay off someday.

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  13. It feels like it should be more complicated than that, but no... you're spot on!

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