Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
How many times can we wrestle past our doubts and try again?
This TED Talk on stress caught my attention today. I’ve been told by many well meaning friends and family members—even my doctor—that I’m too high strung and stressed out, and my stress will make me sick.
Yes, yes, I get it! Yet, some intuitive vibe told me certain kinds of stress have helped me. I couldn’t quite articulate what I meant until I saw this. Thank you Kelly McGonigal for giving me science to explain my vibe.
You see, when we believe we are feeling the stress because it’s helping us, we feel good and our body responds appropriately. It also makes us connect with others (the beautiful part). I learned long ago that sleeping through life wasn’t going to work, and though I’m a bundle of irrational fear, I jump in and make it happen—even if that meant stressing out.
The following thought is most likely universal for all writers when they face agents, editors, and their critique group. This is my brain talking:
I live in the world of this manuscript. I poured everything into this story. I’m pretty sure a piece of my heart is now missing. With that said, I’m willing to rip everything apart and start over again if it means making it better.
The past couple of years I’ve been more stressed out about my writing than I ever have been before, yet I’m also more excited. I’ve faced more disappointments and setbacks, more doubts and moments where I wonder what I’m even doing. The doubt drops away. I’m elated, I’m lost in the world on the page, and my ideas bounce around like those little rubber balls in a small room.
I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
This book takes a scientific look at the habits we form, and it made me think about a few of my own habits, particularly writing.
I get up at five to write in the morning. I’m not a morning person (well, a 7 a.m. person, not a 5 a.m. person), yet I love having a quiet hour to crawl into my story. My dog interrupts me sometimes. Otherwise, I have my solitude—oh and that cup of coffee. . .
After reading Duhigg’s book, I think that first perfect hot cup of stovetop espresso is as much of a reward as my uninterrupted writing time. I don’t drink copious amounts of coffee, but the first cup is the best. Early morning hour writing = coffee. It sounds so unromantic, but if it helps me squeeze an extra meaningful writing hour in my busy day, I’ll take it.
Recently, my youngest son joined the middle school basketball team. It came as a bit of a surprise. Though we encourage exercise in our family, team sports hasn’t played a big role. Up until now, both my sons have been more interested in individual activities like parkour, weight lifting, swimming, and running. We’ve never even watched a professional sports game (no, not even the Super bowl).
I like basketball. It’s fast and furious. It requires skill and speed, but also, like many sports, it requires that in-the-moment/in-the-face approach. My son is very talented with defense (ahem, parental pride moment). He’s not afraid to get in the thick of things and keep the other team from scoring. Watching these boys focus is nothing short of amazing. As some of you might know, middle school is a weird time in life. Focus isn’t always part of the picture, so the intention and connection really stands out.
How it Works:
As writers we know stress is part of the game, and it will help us become better writers. We have to get out on the metaphorical court, run like mad and attempt to score over and over again. Our writing is a habit worth developing and cultivating, even if we have to bribe ourselves with a morning cup of steaming caffeine. Even if we have to remind ourselves over and over again that one day we will write something beautiful; our words will resonate with readers. A million setbacks and disappointments may be part of the picture, but so will the joy of creating and connecting.
Those quiet dreams start out as shimmers of possibility and blossom into a life worth living.