The superpower you need to become a published author

The shadowy path to the ocean at my local beach

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.

15 thoughts on “The superpower you need to become a published author

  1. Yes, you absolutely must persevere to be a writer. May I ask if you entered the same novel in the Richell Prize or different ones each year? Congratulations on making the list, it’s a fabulous achievement. My condolences on your friend, she sounds very wise. We must learn to enjoy life where we can amongst the adversity. Thank you for writing a great post.

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  2. Thanks, Naomi. I’ve entered two novel manuscripts, the second successful one twice, although the first time I entered it the manuscript was in a very early stage and I used the competition as a deadline to polish the opening. The opening chapters have completely changed and I’ve done a structural edit in the intervening year.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. As a writer just 20,000 words into a first draft of what I one day hope might be my first manuscript, I definitely understand the need for persistance, even at this early stage. Most of the time I am ready to give up. But then I read or listen to another writers struggles and I open my laptop again.
    Lovely post, Lisa.

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    • Thank you, Pauline. I’m glad it resonated. I stalled for months after reaching the 20,000-word mark on my first manuscript. It’s hard to push through. For me, reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and a serendipitous conversation with an author friend motivated me to keep going. Good luck with the writing!

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  4. Hello Lisa, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. The last few weeks to days of a person’s life can be a profound time in showing us (who live beyond our loved ones death), what really matters. It is my little secret that working as a Palliative Care doctor is often the wisest place to sit in life – I have learned so much from my patients.

    You and I share the love of writing, the joy of making breakthroughs in this area but also the daily work of being a doctor. Balancing this does take persistence.

    For me, the joy of putting words down each morning helps to trascend most things that the day can throw at me.

    Congratulations of making the long list! I am so happy for you!

    Jonathan

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  5. Thanks for your kind words, Jonathan. I have so much respect for the work you do — thanks to excellent palliative care, my friend (also a doctor) passed away comfortably at home, surrounded by family.

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  6. Lisa, I congratulate you on making the long list! This is wonderful. I am also so very sorry about your loss. Vicki sounds to have been a truly gorgeous person and I have to say that your strong message of perseverance also gave me a beautiful sense of peace. The beach image is lovely. Thank you so much for sharing this…. I wish you all the best with your work…
    Anna

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