Congratulations to Becky Scharnhorst for winning A Tough Act to Follow and Acting Innocent and to Mel Hager for winning WONDERLAND.
One of my favorite stories to listen to as a child was, The Little Engine That Could. The voice of the little blue engine who took on the insurmountable challenge of bringing toys, dolls, and “good things to eat to the good boys and girls on the other side of the mountain,” still echoes in my head: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Fast forward 60 years. I’m a grandmother with dozens of articles and two non-fiction books under my belt. For the last ten years I’ve been working on my first young adult novel, Half-Truths. I have revised the story fourteen times; not including the hundreds of times I’ve rewritten scenes and chapters.
Did I know what I was getting into when I first started this project? Definitely not.
So, besides hearing the little blue engine in my head, what has kept me going for all these years? What keeps me chugging along from one revision to another?
Plus, a healthy dose of belief in my story.
Take a minute to list your definition of perseverance as it relates to your writing career. Here’s mine:
1. Not giving up on a reasonable goal.
2. Making sure that my goal is God-honoring and worth completing.
3. Not allowing myself to be distracted from that goal by other activities.
4. Being willing to sacrifice (time, ego, money, etc.) to complete my goal.
Now, consider what is the opposite of perseverance? In other words, what will keep you from being the little blue engine who climbs that "I'm published!' mountain?
Here are some obstacles I thought of:
1. Abandoning the idea because it takes too much time and effort.
2. Listening to self-doubts and fears.
3. Listening to the nay-sayers who mock the goal.
4. Not being willing to make changes suggested by serious, constructive feedback.
5. Not being willing to put in the time and effort it will take to revise, revise, revise.
6. Not having the tools and abilities to reach your goal AND not trying to obtain them. (i.e., diligently practicing all types of writing, take classes, attend conferences, join a critique group)
7. Rejections from agents and/or publishers.
When I began my novel, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I had an idea that I loved: a story set in the early 50’s in Charlotte, North Carolina about the unlikely friendship between Kate Dinsmore, the granddaughter of a rich, society woman, and Lillian Harris, her grandmother’s teenage black help. Their friendship uncovers a century worth of secrets, including their shared ancestry.
Although I’d written two non-fiction books, when I began Half-Truths, I didn’t know how to write a novel. So, I did what you’re supposed to do: I read craft books, attended writing conferences, and received dozens of critiques. I also didn’t know much about African American or southern history. So, I read books (many of which are listed here) and interviewed African Americans who lived in Charlotte during the time period. Each book and interview took time, but they all enriched my work.
One of the influential books I listened to was Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 by Juan Williams. Besides giving me a fuller understanding of the scope of the civil rights struggle, it also provided a meaningful example of perseverance.
Civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King, had their eyes on the prize of obtaining equal rights for blacks. Did they always know what they were getting into? Maybe not. Certainly some, like Dr. King, Medgar Evers, and the protestors who were beaten and imprisoned, ended up losing more than they’d anticipated. But did they believe in the equality they were working towards?
Without a doubt, they did.
I for one, am glad they persevered.
My need to persevere as a writer is minuscule compared to those who unfailingly fought for equality and persevered in the face of discrimination, danger, and death.
But, as I begin the next step of my publishing journey—finding an agent--I have a plan: I must persevere. I have no choice.
And I must believe in my story.
I'm looking forward to being able to repeat the little blue engine's refrain as she came down the mountain:
What about you? How will you persevere in meeting your writing goals in 2019?
If you are reading this blog and aren't a writer, I'd love to hear your stories of perseverance also!
(This post first appeared on Write2Ignite's blog.)