The more I write every day, and reach out for ideas to write about, the more one or two truths pop up to the top of my mind. The first one I’ll talk about is persistence. I’ll leave the other issues for future posts. I don’t think there’s anything more important in getting what you want out of life than being persistent. You have to become dedicated to your task and unwilling to give up. But it goes a lot deeper than just this one fundamental. You have to keep going always. On those days where you’ve had a long week, you’d rather just roll over and go back to sleep, hoping to have a dream that’s pleasant. Those days, too, you have to get up and do the work.
Because that’s what persistence is, keep at it, every day, no matter what odds, or challenges you face, you keep going.
This doesn’t apply to only writing, either. A lot of what I’m learning are key fundamentals that are true across fields. As a salesperson, I understand the nature of being persistent. It doesn’t mean that I have to be constantly pushing a customer to buy. I don’t actually get to deal with customers directly as much as I would like as my company sells through a VAR channel. But I do have to use persistence to figure out which partners will sell our products repeatedly, and how much they will sell. One of the key factors of being successful in sales is being able to predict your future. I have to forecast sales. To get the information I need to do this correctly, I have to be very persistent in my pursuit. I have to reach out to my staff and ask them probing questions about deals they are working, about partners they are working with. I have to do this continually. I have to do the same with our partners. It can become mindless work. It’s why I need to create, I have to counterbalance the mundane in my work life somehow.
But I learned a long time ago that persistence pays off. It doesn’t mean being pushy, or even unlikeable. It just means I’m going to keep going. I remember when I was in tech support probably 25 years ago, I had a question for one of our programmers on a piece of code that he had written. Of course, he had moved on and was working on new code. I asked him about the code in question, he said he’d have to look it up and went back to his work. I simply sat down in the chair by his desk without a word. He looked at me strangely, and I replied, “I can wait.” He wrapped up what he was doing and did the research I needed. If I hadn’t been like this, the problem would most likely have not been solved. While that doesn’t seem like a big issue, the fact that I was able to move issues through to resolution ultimately opened doors for me and lead (a long way around, but it did lead me) to where I am today.
I can’t control how smart I am, although I try to keep learning each and every day. I read I am learning another language, I try to work on technical training as well, but at the end of the day, there is a finite limit to my intelligence, and I have to accept that. I also can’t control how smart other people are. There will always be someone smarter. I operate under that mantra. So I’ve established that intelligence isn’t the key here, because it’s out of my control. What I can control is how I work, and how hard, and what I focus on. Being persistent is one of those keys. I am one of those people who make a point to follow up. I summarize when I reach out after a meeting, I do what I say I’m going to do. If I say that I’ll look into something, I do, and then I send an email or make a phone call with the results. People are amazed. There are so many empty promises around us, that it’s not that difficult to stand out if you try.
I try to be the same way in my writing. In order for me to be successful this time around, I have to give my writing the same level of effort I’ve given mere hobbies in my life. That ends up being a lot of time and a lot of focus. I know how long it took me to get good at soccer, at golf, Kung Fu, racing, etc. The list goes on. I spent considerable time in each of these endeavors to “get good.” I was persistent in my pursuit of mastery. Writing is unlike anything else I’ve ever done. We create something from nothing and then unleash it on the world. Then we do it again, and again, etc. If I were to judge my progress just by looking at my current work, I would probably feel like I’m stuck, getting nowhere wasting my time. But since I’m doing this every single day, it’s easy for me to go back five months and look at what I produced and compare. I am getting there. I have already committed to myself that this will take years of effort. Most likely more than a decade.
That’s the thing about persistence. Once you’ve made your mind up, it doesn’t matter how long, how much effort, etc. is needed. You just know that your job is to keep at it, every single chance you get. I met with my only writer friend last night for a few quick drinks before he had to drive four hours home. He was in the same spot I was in seven months ago. He’s feeling unmotivated in his work, but when I asked him about his writing, he perked right up. I pointed out to him that the key is making sure “that other guy,” the writer is happy and moving forward. He’s written three books. While I dabble and am trying to get there, he started out by writing a book around what he knows. It’s good. We had a long conversation about writing and our circle of creative friends which includes exactly two people, the two of us. As I explained to him how I’ve pulled myself out of a rut, and my plans going forward, he started to open up about his process, which is quite good, but then he admitted his process grew out of writing a book. After talking about writing, he realized that what he’s burned out around is being 58, close to retirement, and needing to have something to limp him along for the next 10 years while he keeps writing. But since we both don’t have any fellow creatives to speak to, we get sidetracked and sucked into this vortex of work. We’re salespeople. This isn’t rocket science. In and of itself it is not fulfilling work. If you don’t find fulfillment in your work, you have to find it somewhere else in your life. I’m a big proponent of not making your main line work your passion, but that all depends if your passion is marketable.
My true passion is not marketable, so I write. Coupled with my persistence, I will keep at it until I find whatever it is I’m looking for in my writing. Clarity? Sure. Analysis? Most definitely. Fun? Yeah, let’s throw some fun in there, hell it better be fun, since I get up at 4 AM to keep it going. I’m not saying I won’t give this all up someday. I might. It’s possible that I find something creative that I enjoy more than writing, something that helps me emotionally more than this. But it won’t be in the near future, I can promise that. It won’t be until I get to a place where I can look back at the body of my work and see that I created “all this.” Whatever that might be at the time. It will be at least one book, and honestly, I’ve heard you need to knock out five to really get where you want to be. So there it is, the focus on my persistence is to write a few books. Now, I just have to figure out what they’ll be about.
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