Tag Archives: Life

Is Writing As Much About Persistence As Passion?

14 Dec

When you tell someone you’re a writer, one of the most common responses you get is something along the lines of ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a book…’. Some will have only a vague idea of the type of book they’d write (‘…maybe something for young adults, or a romance’) while others will have more concrete ideas for characters (‘…where the main guy is this complete psychopath, I mean really nasty’) or the plot (‘…it would be about this group of investors getting their own back on a crooked banker’). Some may even have something down on paper (‘…you know, I’ve got the first chapter written in a notebook somewhere’). Then comes the killer line: ‘…I’ve been thinking about it for years’. This brings me round to the subject of this posting, why do so many would-be writers never get beyond the ‘thinking-about-it’ stage?

If you asked them, I’m sure you’d come up with a myriad of different answers ranging from things like ‘I haven’t got time’ to ‘I never get a moment’s peace with the kids under my feet all day’ and ‘I just wouldn’t know where to start’. However, I suspect the real reason is something different. When we think of writers, we generally think of people with a passion for their art. While passion certainly helps, I think persistence is just as important. If you don’t have that, no matter how passionate you are about your ideas, it’s unlikely they’ll ever come to fruition.

What do I mean by persistence? Persistence is what keeps you going, even on the days (or nights), when you’d really rather be doing something else. It’s what helps you reach your targets even when, at times, they seem unachievable. It’s what allows you to come back and edit that same damned scene for the umpteenth time, until you finally get it to work.

Persistence doesn’t just come into play when writing, you also need it when it comes to the long struggle towards getting it into press. It keeps you going after each and every rejection letter from a publisher or an agent. JK Rowling had Harry Potter rejected 12 times before it was accepted, and this doesn’t seem unusual. Apparently, (if you can believe things you read on the internet) Twilight was rejected a similar number of times and Stephen King’s first published novel (Carrie) somewhere in the region of 30.

And it doesn’t stop once your work is out there, you still need to be persistent. I watched an interesting documentary about Iain Rankin a few weeks ago where he said that his first eight Rebus novels barely sold enough to give him a living wage as a writer and he had to take on other projects to help make end’s meet. At a book a year, that’s eight years of persisting with his grumpy Edinburgh detective after his first book was published before he started becoming the success he is today.

It seems that when it comes to writing, passion without persistence is unlikely to lead to success, or getting your book into print, or even getting it finished in the first place. Yet, persistence is something that seems to be disappearing from many in the western world, and I’m not just thinking of would-be writers here. We now like in a world where much of the success of those we see around us seems to have come from random luck rather than hard work. Think lottery millionaires. Think X Factor winners. This is breeding a culture where people sit around waiting to get lucky rather than getting on and doing something about it. Too many young people want to be famous, but have no idea what they want to be famous for doing. For them it seems that success is something that just happens if you’re lucky, and isn’t something you have to work at, sometimes for many years.

The British Tennis player, Andy Murray (who, for a long time, was routinely pilloried by the British press for not winning a major tournament), after losing yet another US Open in 2011 famously tweeted, ‘Persistence is failing 19 times and succeeding on the 20th’. This is exactly the type of attitude we need to cultivate, both in ourselves as writers, and indeed for our lives in general. This is the type of person who should be held up as a role model for the next generation, rather than the ever-changing stream of reality TV show winners who owe much of their success to luck rather than persistence.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t know, persistence paid off for Andy Murray in a big way this year when he returned to New York and finally lifted the trophy he’s worked for so many years to win.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self

7 Dec

At 10: You’re not immortal, and crashing your bicycle hurts.

At 11: It’s okay to fail. The important thing is that you gave it a go. If you can, learn from the experience.

At 12: True friends will like you for who you are and not who they think you should be.

At 13: Even though it may seem like it now, school isn’t forever. How popular you are there bares no relationship to how popular you’ll be in the rest of your life. Your teachers don’t always know what they’re talking about, and just because they tell you you can’t do something (like becoming a writer), it doesn’t mean that it’s true.

At 14: No matter what you might think, your parents haven’t ruined your life just because they didn’t buy those shoes you really, really wanted.

At 15: Teenage girls might not like geeks now, but that changes when they grow up (at least for some of them, and they’re the ones you’ll want to hang out with anyway).

At 16: Just because you really like someone, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say.

At 17: Learning to play the guitar takes time, and you shouldn’t give up just because you can’t play like a rock god straight away.

At 18: It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the grades you want. You can always try again, and do better next time.

At 19: It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do with your life yet. You’ve got plenty of time to work it out. In the meantime, enjoy being young (but not too much!).

At 20: Turning 21 really isn’t as bad as it seems. Honest!

At 21: Tattoos are life, not just for Christmas – So think very carefully before you get one.

At 22: You’re not immortal, and motorcycle accidents hurt an awful lot more than bicycle crashes

At 23: Life isn’t always fair, but you can’t let that stop you living it to your full potential.

At 25: No matter how it seems, nothing is forever.  Enjoy the good times while you can, and remember that the bad times will eventually pass.

At 27: It’s okay to fail. You’re young enough to start again, and next time you can make sure you do things properly.

At 29: Turning 30 really isn’t as bad as it seems. Honest!

At 30: It’s okay if you still don’t know what you really want to do with your life. You’ll figure it out eventually.

At 32: If you don’t like your job, you can always change it. Remember, it’s never too late to start a new career.

At 34: It’s okay to fail. The important thing is not to let it put you off trying again.

At 35: You’re not immortal, and you really need to start looking after yourself.

At 37: You’re never to old to try something new.

At 38: Learning to play the guitar takes time, and you shouldn’t give up just because you can’t play like a rock god straight away (like you did the first time round).

At 39: Turning 40 really isn’t as bad as it seems. Honest!

At 40: See, I told you not to believe your teachers when they said you’d never become a writer.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.