In many copies of my first published book, Make a Scene— a guide to that quintessential game-changing writing element, the scene–I often sign copies with the following epigraph: “Practice, Polish, Persist.”
It’s my own little chant of encouragement to new writers, the only mantra I think worth repeating over and over. Because let’s face it, talent alone does not a successful writer make. But what does it really mean?
I learned to write a novel…by writing a novel. That’s right, after years spent reading and writing vignettes and short stories, I decided to try on the novel form without a class or a book. I knew I was writing a novel that would not likely see publication, but I also knew that there was never going to be a more practical effort than just doing it. I firmly believe that one can’t theoretically learn to write; you have to get your hands dirty. And once I did so, I began to share that messy first attempt with other writers, who gave me hard but honest feedback. Then I took classes and read all the books. I shared stories for critique. I practiced at novel-writing the same way I practiced driving a car and many other things–with an imperfect, but consistent effort. The practice didn’t turn me into a perfect writer, it turned me into a committed writer who realized she had a long way to go and would do what it took to get there.
After the practice, it’s tempting, especially after completing a draft, to feel as though you’re done. No one can blame you for wanting to toss in that towel after the grueling marathon that novel writing can be. But I quickly learned that the professionals in positions to publish know a rough diamond when they see one, and they aren’t going to grant you the love of your friends and family. You have to polish. You have to befriend revision and learn to edit yourself. Polishing is an on-going practice.
And after you’ve learned the craft and know it inside and out so well you can teach it, there comes the truest test of all…if you want to see your work out there, you must persist. You must keep at it; whether “it” be submitting and finding an agent, or “it” be publishing your own work, if you stop or give up, nobody will do it for you. When it comes to realizing your dreams, that challenge is entirely up to you.
The fact is, what separates a successful writer from a talented one is always persistence.
Jordan E. Rosenfeld is the author of the debut novel, Forged in Grace.