Lit Bit: Perseverance

Persistence in writing is vital. Not only does the writing itself have to be a daily practice (and as I’ve said, it doesn’t have to be the same project every day; you can jump around and follow your words down rabbit holes, wander into and out of poems, knock out a short story, what-have-you), the work toward publication also requires a dogged regularity.

J. A. Konrath said it exceedingly well, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up… published.” And it’s true. It hit me while I was rewatching my favorite show Daria. In high school, Daria was me. My sister was Quinn. I loved the show when it first aired because it was the only time I’d seen my high school experience accurately portrayed on any screen. In one of the early episodes of season 5, “The Story of D,” Daria sends out her first short story for publication, and gets back her first rejection. She was shy of it to begin with, afraid of failing and unable to admit it when her boyfriend encouraged her to submit. When the rejection letter comes back, her typical snark and defeatism balm the wound. It’s her boyfriend who tells her she’s being childish, and she learns to take it in stride.

That’s what I’d liked about season 5, how much the characters grew. But this in particular was me. I gave up on writing for a few years, right out of high school. But then I had the good fortune of a college poetry professor busting my chops, teaching how to properly submit, and telling me to tough it the fuck out. Almost in those words. In fact, he used more profanity. He maintained that not submitting, even if I knew I was going to get rejected, was being a bad writer. One of those nitwits whose writing was their glass ego: so precious and so frail it couldn’t stand to take a beating. If you believe in it, in your craft and your skill, you can weather all the rejections and still succeed. Practice can only help you improve, in both the art of wordsmithing, and in the art of gracefully accepting rejection.

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