It’s Not Persistence, It’s Commitment

What would you do if you got rejected, not once or twice, or even a dozen or two dozen times?  What would you do if got rejected 60 times?

Kathryn Stockett decided she was going to succeed, no matter what:

A year and a half later, I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry. “You have so much resolve, Kathryn,” a friend said to me. “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?”

By rejection number 45, I was truly neurotic. It was all I could think about—revising the book, making it better, getting an agent, getting it published. I insisted on rewriting the last chapter an hour before I was due at the hospital to give birth to my daughter. I would not go to the hospital until I’d typed The End. I was still poring over my research in my hospital room when the nurse looked at me like I wasn’t human and said in a New Jersey accent, “Put the book down, you nut job—you’re crowning.”

It got worse. I started lying to my husband. It was as if I were having an affair—with 10 black maids and a skinny white girl. After my daughter was born, I began sneaking off to hotels on the weekends to get in a few hours of writing. I’m off to the Poconos! Off on a girls’ weekend! I’d say. Meanwhile, I’d be at the Comfort Inn around the corner. It was an awful way to act, but—for God’s sake—I could not make myself give up.

The important lesson here isn’t that persistence pays off.  It usually doesn’t.  Not if you define persistence as “continuing firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition” or “specific, habitual behavior”. If you persistently bang your fist against that stone wall, eventually you might break through.  The problem is, there aren’t that many stone walls left in this world.  The things you want to do likely can’t be accomplished through brute force.

Kathryn didn’t succeed because she shotgunned out the same book out to 60 agents.  Brute force wouldn’t have been any help here.  As she says, she was constantly rewriting it, tweaking it here, changing it there.  She didn’t call the gatekeepers morons because they didn’t recognize her obviously blinding genius.  She took the criticism.  She took it and she busted her ass to make her book better.

She succeeded because she committed to making her book as good as it needed to be to get published.

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One Response to It’s Not Persistence, It’s Commitment

  1. Pingback: There Is Always A Choice | The Blog of A.J. Kessler

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