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The "P" Word
By Lori Myers
March, 2007, 07:49

Even as children we learn that with persistence we often get what we want.
I enjoy reading interviews with fellow writers, finding out when they began writing, how they unearthed their literary passion, and what it was like when they received their first acceptance. As writers ourselves, we can relate to their successes and failures because we're all members of a relatively small and select club.

While each writer has their unique story and niche, I unearthed my own special discovery upon reading those interviews. There was a common denominator mentioned in interview after interview, and one I connected with on a personal level. Whenever the writer was asked about the reason for his or her success or about what advice they could offer to fledgling writers, there was always one answer that cropped up. It wasn't "Well, I took a lot of writing classes" or "I attended every conference I could afford." Instead, it was the ever important "P" word. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.

Writers live and breathe a career that is beset with rejection, much like many other creative professions where it is hard to get a foothold until you prove yourself and finally begin surging ahead. As writers, we all take baby steps at first, tentative, wobbling from side to side. Some decide to finally choose another path, take an easier, more certain route, one that won't create as much anguish. Others keep wobbling for awhile, maybe drop once or twice, but then pick themselves up, brush the dirt off, and try it all over again. We don't quit. We persist. Somehow, someway, that persisting attitude leads to good things, good news, and affirmation of our efforts. We don't know why it does. It just does. It's uncanny.

But maybe you're just starting out in the writing game. You love the creativity, the freedom of making up a plot or laying your emotions out there for everyone to read in a personal essay. You start sending out your "stuff" to editors, filled with self-assurance and excitement. You slap a stamp on that envelope, or hit "send" on an e-mail, knowing the news will be good. You're surprised when it isn't. Some writers quit. Others don't. They persist.

Those writers find ways to not allow that "Thanks, but no thanks" form letter to ruin their lives. Instead of moping or getting mad at the dog, they read between the lines. Can I somehow improve this story? Is it missing something? Do I need a stronger lead in my query letter? Is it actually fine the way it is and I just need to find that one publisher?
Ask those questions . . . and then get to work. Have a list of additional markets ready if those rejection letters are delivered to your door. As soon as you receive one, send your story or query out that same day to the next one on the list. While you have that one going, gather other ideas or compose more prose and send those out, too. Have a lot of your work floating around out there to different publishers and markets. This way your expectations will stay positive. In the meantime, take those rejection letters, fold them into paper airplanes, and fling them through the air. That's always a lot of fun!

But don't stop writing. Keep perfecting your craft. Stay active in the writing game. Join a writers group. Attend a conference or two. Take a workshop. Connect with other writers who are traveling the same gravel path. Don't make rejection the center of your universe because that isn't what your universe is about. You're a writer. Now write!

Benjamin Disraeli, a statesman and novelist, is quoted as saying "Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure." I think that says it all. Persist with your writing Passion. Persist. Persist. Persist.

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Lori Myers is an award-winning freelance writer and co-founder of the Central Pennsylvania Writers' Consortium whose articles, essays, and fiction have appeared in over 40 national and regional publications. One of her articles is part of the archives at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

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