It’s said that the difference between a writer who successfully publishes and one who doesn’t comes down to persistence. But what does this adage really mean in today’s writing world? What makes one writer more capable of weathering the work, the inevitable rejection, the criticism and the blows of making a writing life than another? If you allow yourself to be at the whims and caprice of the publishing industry, which changes frequently thanks to speedy technological innovations, you can easily find yourself pulled out of your center, away from what drew you to write in the first place, and discouraged. I know from experience; it’s happened to me countless times, and each time I had to seek new ways to climb out of that hole and reconnect with what drew me to write in the first place. Though there were some painful times along the way, each blow taught me a new trick for rallying myself again, and at the end of the day my ability to persist came down to one essential truth: writers must find ways to enjoy the writing journey as much as the destination.
This is why I’m writing a book about persistence for writers. At the root of persistence is the need to create a deep foundation I refer to as a “writing practice.” In this concept, nothing is wasted, all your efforts feed into the larger well of your writing, the failures teach you and the successes bring more energy to your work. You don’t stop just because you’ve had a success, so why stop just because you have a setback?
Let’s begin with my first step in building your unshakeable “writer’s code”…
What is the value of your writing?
Your writing means a lot to you because of what you bring to it—passion, clarity, joy and even occasionally terror, and it will elicit these and other feelings in your audience. Determining the value of your writing to you—why you do it—is the first step in building an unshakable Writer’s Code that you will turn back to when the doubts come to harangue and hassle you. This is the most personal step of all. Someone or another in your life may wish for you to make a bigger income at your writing (or any), or give them something to be proud of, or “make something” of yourself after pursuing a degree. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what others want or expect of you in your writing practice.
If your burning reason to write is because it makes you happy, or releases the wild voices from your head, or helps you analyze the world around you, these, and any other reason, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You must learn to please yourself in the process of your practice or you become vulnerable to discouragement, despair or giving up. At the end of the day, “writing must be its own reward” as Anne Lamott has famously said. You may also desire to have an audience, wild success and fame. These are also equally valuable desires so long as they are rooted to a powerful, authentic place inside you.
So, it’s time to work. Take out your notebook or tablet and get ready to answer a question in each of the following steps.
Write Now: What is the value of your writing? List at least ten reasons you write. Imagine your life without writing. What would it look like? What would be missing from your life without it?
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