“Nothing in the 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.” ~ Calvin Coolidge
Last Saturday, while we were out on our semi-regular date night, my husband and I discussed this quote as it pertained to both writing and bicycling.
Bob talked about reaching a plateau with his bike speed – about making steady, satisfying progress and then hitting a barrier he couldn’t seem to break. He follows blogs about biking just as I follow blogs about writing, and he said that people always want to know what they can do to break that barrier. They are looking for an exercise or a regimen that will get them the result they want (increased speed) in a designated amount of time. But the advice given is always the same:
Ride your bike a lot.
How long? How long until I see results?
The answer: It’s different for every person.
And this is true of writing, too. Through blogging, I know many writers feel like they’ve hit a barrier they can’t break through, whether it’s finishing a complete manuscript, querying for representation, promoting a self-published book, or selling a book on submission. Even after you break through one of those barriers, it doesn’t mean your progress is steady from that point on. A sudden spurt of “increased speed” might very well be followed by another plateau.
A lot of people outside the writing world don’t know this. They think that once you publish a book your success is guaranteed. And if it doesn’t happen right away, then you must not be a good writer.
We ought to know better, although sometimes we forget. Yes, it does seem cosmically unfair when a 20-year old writer gets a choice of 10 competing agents and two weeks later lands a 6-figure deal based on a partial manuscript of a first book … to everyone except that writer. But there’s no point feeling envious or discouraged or – worst of all – giving up.
You just have to keep riding. Er … writing.