Wednesday, July 4, 2012

IWSG: Persist

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh. The group offers a place for writers of all kinds to support each other in moments of insecurity.

I realized early on that if I keep posting about my own frustrations and insecurities when it comes to writing, these posts are going to start sounding very similar. So last month, I decided to move away from "woe is me" and focus on motivation and encouragement. With all of my IWSG entries going forward, I'll be offering an inspirational quote from someone I admire.

Today's quote comes from another writing giant that was directly responsible for my love of speculative fiction growing up. Along with Heinlein and Clarke, he was known during his lifetime as one of the "big three" in science fiction, and for good reason. I'm talking about Isaac Asimov, who had these encouraging words for unpublished writers still struggling to make some headway:

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.


There's not much room for interpretation with this one. Like much of Asimov's work, it's straight to the point and the message is clear: don't give up. Even in the face of repeated and monumental failure, even when it seems like the only fruit of your labor is cold, hard rejection, don't give up.

And outside of, "Just write the damned thing," I'm not sure I've ever heard a bit of advice more universally applicable for writers of all shapes, sizes, and shelves. You will never succeed if you aren't willing to persist. The road to publication is paved with rejection and criticism, so steel yourself before you drive it or you won't get very far. Thicken that skin, lace up your body armor, and plow head-first into the thick of your fears. Let failure roll off your back like water on a mallard's hide.

Hell, why not go one better? Treasure your failures. Keep every rejection letter you receive, not to remind yourself that you fell short, but as a token of your continued persistence. Every time you read the words "not quite for us," remember that you're the member of a select group of writers who got off their butts and conquered the fear of failure, one submission at a time. When acceptance finally comes (and it will, if you keep trying), you'll get to have yourself a celebratory bonfire if you'd like.

Me, I'm keeping mine. If I grow up to be a big famous author one day, I might even publish them. I think I'll call the book Persist, and dedicate it to the memory of Isaac Asimov.

Happy Independence Day. Welcome to Urf.

26 comments:

  1. What a fantastic quote, I maye have to print it out to put up on my wall. And so true. And Stephen King has kept all of his rejection letters too. It's brilliant motivation to improve.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not a bad idea! And you're right, that pile of rejections that sits on top of my printer is definitely motivating, especially when I compare it to the meager "stack" of acceptances. Every time I add an R, it just makes me want to write more.

      Thanks for reading, Angeline!

      Delete
  2. Words to live by, that's for sure. 90% of a writer's life is persistent hard work, and the rest is equal parts talent, luck and flexibility (i.e. 3,33(3)) (I just had to type that out) (cuz I like decimals) (what?)

    Turning the self-pity energy you, like everyone else, occasionally have into self-motivation is highly admirable. I love this capacity in people. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Vero. And it works! Self-defeatism never helped anyone, but converting despair into determination is healthy for just about everyone in the creative world.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  3. No rejection letters yet, as I am still in the group that continues to nitpick at a MS in procrastination of subbing it out, but I'm getting there. The thought that a rejection letter (or email, as it will be in my case) should be considered proof that I stuck my neck out there--instead of something to get down about--is a wonderful thought, thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome--and it's true! You might occasionally hear the phrase "everyone gets rejected" tossed about, but it's just not true. Only those willing to put a piece of themselves on a stranger's desk get rejected, and that's a commendable step in itself.

      Keep at it, justbishop. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. What a great quote, thank you for sharing it with us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad I could be of service, VikLit.

      Delete
  5. Every rejection is just one closer to acceptance!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post. Good advice. :)
    I'm ISWG #288.

    ReplyDelete
  7. J.W.--thanks for dropping over at my place.

    You want another for your Kindle...I'm offering LIS for beta *smile*

    - Mac

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, time is tight for me right now and I'm focusing on short stories, so that's mostly what I'm reading at the moment. Thanks for the offer though, Mac!

      Delete
  8. Man, I'm definitely gonna have to read some Asimov books. I found a bunch of 40 year old Asimov paper backs in my parents basement the other day. Maybe I'll sneak one into my backpack next time I'm over...

    This is a good quote, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely give them a read; that sounds like a great find. I'd recommend the Foundation series, though you might want to throw in the Robot series for good measure, considering how influential it was.

      Thanks for stopping by, magic mint!

      Delete
  9. I kind of like "Just write the damn thing." Goes well with the t-shirt I'm wearing today, " Even if it's crap, just get it on the page."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does! That's great advice as well.

      Thanks for reading, Donna!

      Delete
  10. This post oddly reminds me of a story I once heard somewhere about Spencer Tracy. He was very, very deeply committed actor and made every scene look honest and natural.

    One day Spencer is shooting a scene with this kid who is worried, stressed, and over-analyzing everything. He's holding up production with all of his hesitations.

    "What's my motive behind coming through the door?" he asked the director.

    Spencer got so frustrated that he replied, "You go through the damn door because it is the only way to get in the damn room!"

    I think his comment goes with what you're saying. Just be honest to yourself and get it done.

    Sorry for the rant--just wanted to share the quote ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice! I like that quote. And absolutely, you're right. Sometimes when you talk about persistence, people the get the wrong impression and think that it means you must plug your fingers in your ears and ignore rejection, but that's not the case. Honest persistence is the way to go.

      Thanks for the rant! ;)

      Delete
  11. It is great you have decided to switch to encouragement! Plus that quote is great and so true, thank you for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad I could be of service, Katharina!

      Delete
  12. I love your post -- it's so encouraging! I've never heard someone say to treasure the rejections before. What a great idea. I'll be querying in the next couple of months, and I'll treasure all the rejections I'm going to rack up! :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lexa! Glad I could encourage you. Good luck querying!

      Delete
  13. J.W. thanks for visiting my blog and that is indeed a great comment. Thanks for sharing it with us. Yes, I was thinking along the same lines as you, it is time for positive outlooks and not to focus on negatives continually!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. Positivity is more productive! Thanks for reading, C.M..

      Delete

Thanks for reading!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...