This week the word perseverance has been scratching at me, wanting to be written about. It’s pestered me with all the doggedness you would expect from it. So here I am, struggling to come up with an opening story to illustrate what it means to persevere and why it interests me.
I don’t have a story. But that in itself is perfect. Because the essence of perseverance isn’t in the moment of triumph, realization, or reward. It’s not about outcome. It is, by definition, the steady persistence in a course of action—and here’s the best part—in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
Discouragement is what drew me to the word. It’s natural to stop and look at our goals and progress, or lack thereof. I joined a new writers’ group recently and as I was telling them about my latest book, I was shocked when I realized that I started that book seven years ago. And I’ve spent another couple of years sending it to agents and publishers. This is my particular dance, or slow-footed shuffle, with perseverance. I may not like it, but I’ve had to make friends with it.
And if you’re a writer, you do too.
One of the biggest challenges my coaching clients face is in building endurance. It’s one thing to feel the rush of inspiration and quite another to slog through that pesky act of forming sentences. I wish I could say it gets easier. Like everyone, I want a beginning, middle, and end. In fact, I’d love to be a punctuation fairy and run around placing periods at the end of brilliant, well-crafted thoughts.
But perseverance is more of a hard wire on an endless spool. It’s having the maturity to know that the crush you have on creativity is indeed crushing because there is always more possibility than progress. It’s being childlike enough to chase a carrot that dangles ever out of reach and be able to say “gosh, isn’t this fun?”
Poor Perseverance never gets the limelight. Once its done its job, it steps aside for flashier words like accomplishment, genius, recognition, or talent. That’s why I think it’s important to take a moment to give this steadfast companion its due by asking:
What do I care about enough to make me persevere? Where do I put my faith? The word is tied to action, but here’s another fascinating thing about it: the second definition of perseverance, as used in theology, is to continue in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.
Wow. Eternal salvation? That makes me think of a popular saying: Don’t quit before the miracle. Because you know, especially if you’re a writer, that there’s one in every story.