This message is a long journey down a winding path seeking discovery.
To be a writer, one must be persistent. What exactly is "being persistent"?
Is Writing Persistence a symbol like Legal Justice? A blindfolded woman with a pointed pen instead of a sword and a scale tilted toward publication?
Is it a quality or a habit? How does it manifest itself?
As defined, persist means "to continue, to carry on, to endure."
Perseverance, a synonym, is "a steady, dogged, unyielding continuation toward a goal, despite hardships or opposition."
But, what do persistence and perseverance require you to do?
There is a FIS school. In my government job, FIS stands for "fiscal impact statement." From a writing persistence perspective, FIS has been interpreted as "fanny in seat."
Okay. To be persistent as a writer, one must place oneself in the position to write on a consistent basis.
But, one doesn't really write with one's fanny, does one? How does being hunched over a desk or keyboard compare with that heroic symbolic figure in the blindfold wielding a pen?
Is "fanny in seat" showing or telling?
And, what about the fact that "fanny in seat" does not always improve one's personal "fiscal impact statement"?
I tried to find online articles about the ways writers persist. I located plenty about staying focused, healthy, inspired, and organized as you write. But, I didn’t find any article telling me how to "persist" in writing.
My mind wandered. I began to think about the bowl of chocolate candies on my desk at work. My goal is to have candies for others’ benefit. To achieve that goal, I need to keep from eating the chocolates myself. How may I persist in providing for others while refraining from consumption?
Several ideas came to mind.
One, I could move the bowl as far from my reach as possible. Maybe even put it in a different location that I don’t usually pass. Out of sight. Out of mind.
Two, I could email other people in my office and tell them to come help themselves to my chocolates. That way, I could share and converse and feel happy others were enjoying the candy. By granting permission, I could allow others and empower myself.
Three, I could limit myself to only eating the chocolate as a reward when I accomplished the things I needed to do. My personal evaluation would determine when I consumed.
Four, I could forbid myself to eat any chocolates at all. I would make the decision to exercise control over myself.
Are those four methods of persisting toward a goal or are they avoidance tactics? Is persisting just the flip side of avoiding?
Does persistence require that you first determine your goal, then map out a path for achieving it?
How do you map your way across a blank page?
When Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize, his short acceptance speech was read for him by John C. Cabot, the United States Ambassador to Sweden. Following is a passage from the speech:
Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.
When Hemingway says “endure” does he mean persist or is he talking about a legacy?
Here’s another portion of Hemingway’s speech:
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
Loneliness and no clear rewards to anticipate are reasons why writing may seem such a questionable pursuit. What is the purpose when the result is not dependent upon what you do, but how others perceive it?
But then again, are the rewards of writing measured externally or internally?
I have never seen a production of the musical Anyone Can Whistle. Few have, even though its music is often heard in tributes to its composer Stephen Sondheim.
It's a story about how a corrupt mayor and her henchmen try to save their town from bankruptcy by perpetrating a public fraud and taking advantage of the tourists that fraud generates. The heroic couple battling the bad guys are a man posing as a doctor and a nurse at the local insane asylum, known as The Cookie Jar.
This couple have a seduction song called "Come Play Wiz Me." The nurse sings to the doctor:
"I like your-How you say?-
It isn't how you say, it's what you see!"
It isn't how you say, it's what you see!"
|Lee Remick and Harry Guardino|
I love that phrase, "imperturbable perspicacity." Imperturbable means steadfast and difficult to upset. Perspicacity is a clear understanding or discernment.
Isn't that what Hemingway was talking about as "grace under pressure"? "Imperturbable perspicacity."
Have I rambled too far and just over-thought this matter?
What conclusions have I reached?
Are there four elements to consider when trying to persist in writing?
(1) Mindset--you must decide to focus on your goal of writing and never let it out of your sight or mind.
(2) Permission--by allowing yourself the time for writing, without doubt or guilt over not doing something else, you can empower yourself to become a writer.
(3) Legacy--accepting yourself as a writer is crucial, regardless of acclaim. Remember Emily Dickinson with her drawers of unpublished, unshared poetry that brought her fame after her death.
(4) Control--"imperturbable perspicacity"--exhibit calm, unwavering keenness about your writing. It's not what you say, but what you project. Be that blindfolded symbol with the sharp object.
So what do you think? Do the photos of Hemingway, the characters from Anyone Can Whistle, and Dickinson show the faces of persistence? How do writers persist?