Calvin Coolidge said, “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. The slogan PRESS ON! Has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Eight years ago when I began my writing journey, true to my type-A personality, I made a to-do list, believing that my path to publication glory would be swift and complete in no more than two years. I made a timeline, color coded and neatly labeled.
I might not have started on this path had I known that the last decade would be a long and humbling exercise with no monetary remuneration wrought with rejection and despair. Webster’s Dictionary defines persistence as the firm or obstinate continuance in course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. Determination is explained as firmness of purpose; resoluteness.
Little did I know how much persistence and determination I was going to need. At one particularly low point, after a graduate degree, oodles of agent rejections, and years on submission, I was overcome with doubt, sure that I was a talentless fraud. I found myself at a crossroad: I could quit and put my book in a drawer. Or I could try again (and again), and press on.
Nevertheless, after a few good cries, I persisted.
Writing stirs something deep in my soul that I can’t access through any other channel. I like the arrangement of a sentence, the musicality and rhythm of good prose, the connectiveness of ideas—the thrill when a reader reaches out to me to say what I’ve written has helped or touched her in some way. In the words of Albert Camus, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” It is my way of saying this is what I know about the world—my way to talk about first love, bullying, sexual assault, self-image, and alcoholism. It gives me a sense of purpose.
Yet despite my noble writing intentions, 99% of the literary gatekeepers I have encountered on the way have said, “No! We don’t think what you have to say is of value. REJECT.”
The road has been dark and lonely.
Even now, after I can legitimately call myself a published author, if I’m honest, the odds of literary success are stacked against me: I’ve started late on this second career—I’m not a hot, under thirty or even under forty, up and coming voice. Plus there are 600,000+ books published every year so breaking through the crowded space is like trying to secure a private audience with the Pope.
Still, I continue. (Maybe, I’m partially insane).
But this did happen:
On February 11, 2018 at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, I stood before a couple hundred people at my book launch celebration. Black Rose Writing had published my book and people were lining up to buy it, to read it, and they’d come to celebrate this moment with me.
In that moment, before my family and friends, I knew what my life’s work is supposed to be. That I am to press on in this direction.
And those two celebratory hours, after 3000+ days of turmoil, are and will be the fuel to power me through the next leg of the journey as I grind out the draft of And The Valley Wept (book two in the Millington Valley series), as I face my critics, as I go back on submission to secure a second book deal, and as I hunt for my first book’s audience and find readers who align with my creative sensibilities. That’s the hardest part for me to accept—that not everybody is going to love my writing (what, three stars?)—alas, I must proceed.
My message, my hope, is that if I can touch one person with this blog today who is working on a dream and if I can give her (or him) a little push to keep going, I am a literary success.
- Block out the naysayers.
- Read the rejections once and then delete them.
- Hop over the stumbling blocks
- Take a sledgehammer to the brick walls.
Remember I am living proof, that if a middle-aged, real estate selling, married, mom of two teenagers, can step in the direction of her dreams, if she can make a dent in them, then you can, too. May I bestow upon you: persistence and determination in the pursuit of your goals. May you be firm. Resolute. Whether you are building a business, starting a non-profit, writing a book, going back to school, crafting your life’s vision, my message is PRESS ON—sometimes that will be all you have: those two mighty words. May we be so lucky as to meet farther along up the road, the wind with the soft whisper of Calvin Coolidge at our backs.
Yes, my friend, please press on.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.
—Henry David Thoreau
You’re never too old to be who you might have been.
“A taut, compelling family tale.” Kirkus Reviews
Till next time,
Book Launch Celebration – my daughter and her friends!