Persistence. Quite a word. The website etymonline.com tells us that the word originated in the 1540s from the French and Latin, meaning “a steady or firm adherence to or continuance in a state, course of action, or pursuit that has been entered upon, especially if more or less obstinate.”
That last part—“especially if more or less obstinate”—intrigues me.
If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer, you have to be persistent and obstinate. Writing for publication is a waiting game, with intermittent payoffs. You have to persist not only in submitting your work, but also in writing, editing, and revising it.
You also have to persist in believing in yourself and your talent in order to keep returning to your pen and legal pad or computer. If you don’t, nothing gets written, nothing gets submitted, nothing has a chance of being published.
In a previous post, I wrote about people who want to write but find excuses not to. I provided examples from a short story and a poem, but I forgot another one from popular culture. In the “The Music Man,” Marion the Librarian puts off Harold Hill until the next day. He tells her, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
That’s how it is with excuses about writing. All your excuses will find you without anything written. And before you know it, “time’s winged chariot” leaves you with a lot of empty yesterdays.
That’s where obstinance comes in. Synonyms for obstinate include “willful,” “stubborn,” “headstrong,” and “unbending,” to name a few. These are qualities you must have to fuel the fire that drives persistence. If you decide to write instead of watching TV or a movie or napping, you’re obstinate. And that’s a requirement if you’re going to achieve your writing goals.
In the book “The Genius in All of Us,” author David Shenk writes that “persistence is the difference between mediocrity and enormous success.”
So, you’ll never write that poem, that memoir, that book if you don’t persist. And you must be obstinate in your desire to do so.
It’s the only way.