Life is punctuated by highs and lows, no doubt about that. But some weeks are more tumultuous than others. In the space of a week, I’ve experienced the extraordinary high of a rare writing win (making the longlist for the prestigious Richell Prize – woo hoo!) followed, a mere day later, by the heartbreaking low of attending a close friend’s funeral. The intertwining of two such moments seems fitting in 2020, the year in which every small joy is tainted by sadness and loss.
Vicki, my friend who was taken way too soon, was one of my early readers. She had a fierce intellect and a love of good literature, and I miss her terribly. She would have cheered on my recent success, after so many years plodding away at this writing business, most likely over a glass of bubbly. But most of all, she would have applauded me for my perseverance.
In the final weeks of her life, Vicki made the unusual decision to record short video clips of herself introducing the musical items she had chosen for her funeral service. In the process of introducing her favourite pieces, sung by her beloved a cappella choir, she shared her thoughts about coping with adversity. Her advice was simple: to find joy in life (hers was found with her choir, in the ocean, at work and with her family and friends), and to persevere. The single attribute that will get you through hard times, she said, was perseverance. And she sure knew about hard times.
Sitting in the chapel, listening to my friend’s words, I couldn’t help but apply her advice to the writing life I’ve chosen. Initially, most of us write for the love of story, and because the act of creating whole worlds on a page brings intense joy. After a while, though, it becomes easy to focus on results and lose the joy in a deluge of rejections and disappointment.
Here’s where persistence comes in—the superpower you absolutely need to become a published author. Because it’s easy to see other writers’ successes in isolation and feel like a failure, perhaps even consider giving up. Most of us don’t share the huge number of disappointments and missteps that happen on the way to success. For example, this is the third time I have entered a manuscript in the Richell Prize. While I’m thrilled to achieve the long-listing, I’m well aware of the long journey ahead if I am to achieve my dream of publication. The only way to succeed is to continue to seek joy, to learn and grow, and above all else, to persevere.