Question of the Month: Endurance

by Susan Henderson on January 5, 2009

They say success often has to do with hanging on after everyone else has let go. It’s a game of endurance.

Given the current status of the publishing industry and what you already know about the tough climb to have a career as a writer, how do you keep at it? How do you stay motivated, creative, not lose faith, though it feels like it’s taking forever to get where you want to go?


Wednesday you’ll meet Jimmy Margulies, editorial cartoonist for The Record.

You may also know his work from Time, Newsweek,, and some of this country’s major newspapers. Jimmy knows all about the focus and stamina required to reach your goal. He also has great ideas about how to be creative on a deadline, and he’ll show you the process behind drawing his amazing political cartoons. I hope you’ll be back to welcome him.


One last thing. My kids started a band called Phonebook, and here’s a really poor-quality video of their first gig:

Green-Hand‘s on guitar, and Bach-Boy‘s on keys and most of the vocals.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

David_Niall_Wilson January 5, 2009 at 8:33 am

This is absolutely a truth of the writing business. Unless you are blessed, incredibly lucky, or just so talented you can’t be ignored, perseverance might be the most important tool in your toolbox. You need to write…continue writing…and focus on each project one at a time as if the success of the previous projects wasn’t a factor.

When I first sold m novels to White Wolf – I peppered them with proposals. I sent one after another, called, spoke with them at length on the phone, and generally pounded them into submission … I ended up writing six novels for them. I have worked and worked with particular stories or novels long after some people might have let them languish, and I’ve seen them published with good reviews and success.

There are a lot of factors involved in getting published, and they don’t necessarily come in a linear order, so you have to keep pressing on – do your best work – and present what you have as it matures and grows until you find your niche.

I might be the poster child for perseverance in writing..



SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 8:54 am

Ooh, I really like this comment. If you decide to extend it over on your blog, I’ll be glad to link you. (Sorry we’re going to have to whoop you in the playoffs next week!)


Amy_Nathan January 5, 2009 at 10:12 am

It’s a selfish thing I guess…I have to know that I’ve done everything I can do before I’m willing to (if I ever) through in the towel. That means everything, turning things inside out and upside down, going backward in addition to forward. That way, I’ll always know that I gave it my best shot. Therefore, no regrets. I’ve been publishing freelance essays and articles in print and online for a few years, and that has changed drastically in addition to the book publishing industry where I am just getting my feet wet with a work in progress – but I feel the same way.

If someone is going to get published (and many someones will) — why not me?

Perhaps it makes me sound like a Pollyanna, which I’m not, I’m just determined and hopeful, yet also realistic.


David_Niall_Wilson January 5, 2009 at 10:20 am

Done…and thank you! um….and GO CHARGERS


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

I’ll give you a nice, prominent link on Friday, when I do my wrap, but in the meantime, I hope everyone can check out your very wise words:

Thanks, David. GO STEELERS!


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 11:14 am

Not selfish at all, Amy. Definitely check out DNW’s blog post, but we’re in agreement: the most defining factor of successful people seems to be persistence.

You gonna tell us what your work-in-progress is about?


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 11:16 am

A very fine folk singer by the name of Gerry Wall left his answer to the question over at my MySpace page. I’m going to see if he’ll bring that comment over here. Either way, check him out here:


Amy_Nathan January 5, 2009 at 11:56 am

Great post over on DNW’s blog…and sure, here’s the low-down on my novel…currently entitled Feasting on Leftovers (and like the novel, the description is also a WIP!)

Just when suburban mom Tracy Weber finds her footing as the only divorcee in a very married suburb — her ex-husband is killed in a car accident. Now she’s not just a single-parent; she’s the only parent. And if things aren’t confusing enough, her ex’s mistress arrives on Tracy’s doorstep with a baby on her hip and suitcases in hand, offering to help.


zett January 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I discovered writing later in life, when I was in my early thirties. It wasn’t like smoking cigarettes, a life-long addiction for me, and I could attempt quitting writing because it came with ugly side effects (restlessness, despair, fear, obsession, posession). It was and is, a question of belief that this is it. To give up is suicide. Because, after all, writers write regardless of publication. For me endurance is about redefining creative ways how to get read. (I’m still working on those) and extending my capabilities each time I write. There is a romantic side of me that believes without reservation that if a writer does what he/she ought to do (write, with devotion) and pushes aside the world, endurance isn’t something he/she thinks about. However, I’m thinking about mediums now. When I first started writing, I tried writing poetry and short stories. I was at best a mediocre writer within these mediums. Now that I’m writing my novel, I’ve found my true tool. I think this is where some writers can get confused/frustrated/pissed off and basically shit on themselves everyday, asking why. Perhaps, then, it is important to carve into ones self to get to the core. First things first: find your true medium and endurance won’t even be an issue. (Then again, maybe I’m more romantic than I thought, but more importantly, I’m a true believer) (Which probably makes me a hopeless romantic, doesn’t it.)



Kimberly January 5, 2009 at 12:29 pm

PHONEBOOK RULES!!!!!! (She screamed at the top of her lungs with her hands in the air – one with a lighter, the other rockin’ Devil’s Horns.)

How do I stay motivated? Stone cold fear. Lance had an interview with Porochista Khakpour a while back, and something she said echoed the way I feel about my work. She mentioned writing beside a loaded pistol.

While I’m not nearly as eloquent as she, I feel exactly the same way. Quitting simply isn’t an option. My fear of failure is so overwhelming, that I have no other choice but to persevere or die.

And, you know, Death can be a pretty strong motivator. 😉


lance_reynald January 5, 2009 at 1:44 pm

endurance, eh?
I don’t know if it is a thing other writers suffer or not, I know you and I have talked about/around it before… but, I expect and demand more of myself than any industry possibly could. I think that is how I subconsciously strike some kind of balance. Nothing in the world is more certain to me than this terror of disappointing others, thus failing myself. I think that twist in my own drive makes the rest of it seem like a cakewalk.
best advice I’ve ever gotten about why any of us stick it out is the old cliched view that if you are a writer, it is what you are, you have no choice…. and whenever that doesn’t push me to my absolute limits Bukowski helps…


lance_reynald January 5, 2009 at 1:48 pm

wow. I’m always caught off guard by the notion that people read my stuff… *blush*
and yes, Khakpour was great! the other one loaded with such gems was Olympia Vernon. at times where I crash into the hardest of walls I go look at some of the things other writers have told me… neat stuff.


lorioliva January 5, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Hi Susan.

Great question. For me, I’ve had to shift a bit and become quiet (even more so). Instead of putting all my energy into the novel revision, I’ve had to dig down and listen to my gut. I’ve had to really focus on creating stories and essays that I feel need to be told (which aren’t a part of my novel.)

I keep my eye out for opportunities that are already in the works, and examine my experiences on how I can contribute. Then, a nagging little voice inside my head (that doesn’t go away) says, “This needs to be told!”

As a result, I’ve written several essays that I hope will be included in upcoming anthologies. Someone once said, “What was meant for you will not pass you by.” For me, the time for my novel will come, and so will other stories that need to be told.

Happy 2009!


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I promised myself I’d finish up two chapters worth of research on my new book before I let myself play, and it’s taking longer than I thought. I’ll pop in tonight and respond to all these beautiful, moving comments, but you guys carry on.


Nathalie January 5, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Endurance is a tought thing. Especially when a piece is being rejected over and over again. Experience proves that it WILL be accepted eventually but not loosing heart can be difficult.
I am fortunate in that being published is not a priority for me (while writing is) so I probably get less affected by rejections. I still have to push myself to go and submit things every now and then though: I find that looking after what might be a suitable market (for my fairy tales in particular) is time consuming and time is something I have little of.
Still. Bit by bits, the “published” list on my blogs grows. Slowly but steadily.

I am certainly looking forward to the getting creative on a deadline bit. I can have problems working with imposed themes.


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 5:12 pm

You know you have a good idea when the people you tell can’t help but cast actors in the movie version!


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

No kidding about those ugly side effects. But also the romantic part, and the feeling you have when you find that story you’re meant to tell and the way you’re meant to tell it.


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I’m with you. The idea of quitting is more horrific than any steep climb or nasty rejection.

Porochista had me at greyhounds.


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I get the terror of disappointing people more than you know. And the secret knowledge that I’m kind of small and disappointing and trying very hard to create something bigger and better than I am. And somehow, when you create this thing that’s bigger and better than you could ever be, you’ll maybe heal something, be good enough, you know.

I’ll watch Bukowski when the house is quieter. Right now, the boys have the amps cranked up.


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Well, this is fascinating. And similar to what Zett’s saying, I think. You put your energy toward the story you need to tell and the form and it wants to be told in. Nice.


SusanHenderson January 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm

I know how those rejections can chip away at you. But every writer, every last one, gets them. It’s like an initiation right that goes on and on!

Have you been to Annette Hyder’s blog? She specializes in fairy tales. You two should meet.


Amy_Nathan January 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I hope that means you’re casting in your head, Susan!! Otherwise it’s time to rework the pitch!! LOL!!


Aurelio January 5, 2009 at 7:35 pm

It’s always fun to see Green-Hand and Bach-Boy in action – thanks for sharing.

I subscribe to a monthly paper called “The Santa Cruz Comic News.” It reprints each month’s political comics and Doonesbury, and Margulies’ work is featured aside Toles and Oliphant. I’m looking forward to hearing what Jimmy has to say on Wednesday!

My endurance will be helped by not letting the rejection anywhere near my core belief in what I aim to achieve with my manuscript. This is not to suggest I am choosing to simply live in denial, or not listen to any critique, but I’m doing a critiquing process ahead of submitting, using willing and brutally honest people whose opinions I trust. If I come out of their critiquing process okay, then it should, theoretically, steel me for anything to come and give me an opportunity to address any obvious problems ahead of time.

This is only a theory though, as my agent hunt and subbing process has yet to begin and I’m still being critiqued.

You’ll have to ask me about my endurance next year, when I’ve actually lived through some rejection. 😉


EllenMeister January 5, 2009 at 8:23 pm

I think, at the very core, I’m relentlessly optimistic. I always believe there’s a bit of hope, no matter how bad things get. That’s what I hold onto–not just in publishing … but in everything. I don’t know how else people manage.


Nathalie January 6, 2009 at 3:38 am

Thanks for the tip. Shall find her.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

Yes, that’s what I meant: I was mentally casting the movie version of your book.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 9:14 am

I’m so glad you’ll be here to meet Jimmy. We met before LitPark was born, and I always had it in the back of my mind to bring him here, and now seemed like a good time. See if you find this is true, but he has very similar work ethic to Tommy Kane and Buck Lewis. There’s something about career artists, people who’ve made it, that stands out right away. You’ll see….

I’ve said this before about bad reviews/critiques, but I can’t say it enough. Go look up your favorite books and your favorite albums on Amazon, and see how one person can love it and the other can trash it. And think, if your favorite author or artist had listened to the person who trashed their piece and reworked it based on that feedback. Or worse, imagine if they’d thrown their work out because they were talked into believing it was junk.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 9:16 am

I’m a relentless optimist, too. Have to be, or I couldn’t get up in the morning.


EllenMeister January 6, 2009 at 9:28 am



Amy_Nathan January 6, 2009 at 9:39 am

I was hoping that’s what you meant! Want to share your thoughts…I have my own, but sometimes I forget the names of the actors!


Heather_Fowler January 6, 2009 at 10:48 am

Great question.

Well, I do many things–but usually come back to the same idea I had before, which is I can’t stop writing, so why beat myself up for it? I use my creative blog on MySpace to do new challenges and keep me rolling. When I try to focus on just submitting, on researching query stuff, on focusing on a novel I am not interested in, I realize that I get bitter and overwhelmed. So, I have a friend I pay to handle my submissions (since this is where a lot of my neurosis comes from–OCD edit again, doubt, fear, etc)–which is more a labor of love on her part since the pay is a pittance, but it allows me the relief to know that someone is sending my work out (so at least something is happening) and I can strictly focus on the joyful part, which is the creation of new art and work. I have also created a database that will log all subs and autogenerate cover letters and give me access to reports that can help me down the line with compiling CVs and that sort of thing. This is not the best system. I have sold/published about 25 stories and some poems (of 240 short stories and about 400 poems). I rip my hair out about trying to force myself to compile booklengths and whether to ship them to contests, but I have hope because I keep writing, because I keep connecting with other writers, because I realize that whatever break I next have (no matter what level of my career I may be at), the writing is the THING. That is the joy spot.

And whether I get a first contract for a book of poems, a book of stories, a novel–really doesn’t matter because each stage of the process has its own nervous and frightening resonances–i.e. you have secured an agent, but s/he hasn’t yet sold your book; s/he has sold your book, but the editing and production stage are taking forever, not to mention what does self-promotion mean?; your book comes out, but how will it be reviewed and what back-breaking level of traveling or emailing or interviewing can you do and will it help?; you’ve had one book and your second begins the same laborious process all over again, only it will either cement or sink your career; you may have two books, but other people have ten–why don’t you?; you have ten books, but some of them are from presses that didn’t give you the visibility as Joe Schmoe writer over there who had one book at 23 and was picked by Oprah, so now can live off of his work; maybe you even had a book picked by Oprah, critics loved it, the public bought it, you were announced an instant genius, except, except, except there is unbearable pressure about what your next book or books will do and for the next twenty years, you know that after that book, that high, you will be forever sad and bewildered that your next novels/stories/works don’t get quite that same attention, which you can’t even gauge anymore–but have you lost it? Your talent? Are you less good now? Was that your golden goose; it’s nice that you have a golden goose but maybe the top periodicals are tired of you, maybe you’ve taken other jobs or are spending all your time reading other people’s work; maybe you even win one of those Nobel prizes or Guggenheim fellowships or a Pulitzer–but, in the end, you wake up everyday and all you want is to feel the excitement and joy that writing gave you before you had so many terrible, beautiful considerations about fame, placement, publication–because you are a writer. Because you don’t want to envy or be envied. You want to create. Because all you really want to do is meet interesting people, continue your love affair with words, and be as happy as you can so that you don’t Kurt Cobain the situation one day.

Well, there you have it. You’re just fine as long as you’re creating. Submitting is good. It will be lovely to get moving on that ladder, provided you can be as oblivious as possible while you are traveling it (as you make and gain friends who will help you weather whatever storms your notice may get you), but the ink is dripping, spilling out, you have a story to tell. You want to tell it. And you let it take you away into the only place you are truly transcendental to your current real-world worries and thoughts–the place of creation. And you like it there, so you stay–for as long as humanly possible. You write and you read and you write and you read some more. You try not to lose your wonder. And then you get up and do it again.



mariaschneider January 6, 2009 at 11:53 am

Hi Susan,
I hate to say this but I’ve had to tune out some of the media coverage of the demise of the publishing industry. It’s become so relentlessly pessimistic and just sucks the juice out of any sort of creative impulse. I’m sure many new and even established writers read the depressing coverage and think, why bother?

If you really want to write and be read, there’s never been a time in history when it was easier to get your work out there. I think it’s really important to focus on positive messages and not get sucked into fatalistic viewpoints.

Keep up the great work! Your sons are adorable. 🙂


jessicaK January 6, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Whenever anyone talks about perseverance and writing, I open my mouth to say something about it, but nothing comes out. How do I talk about 25 + years of writing, years that are marked with some measure of success but not nearly what I hope yet to achieve? Let’s take that novel, for instance. The first one I wrote in mid-1980s. The one that was a finalist in a contest that started as an award-winning story, but ultimately didn’t sell. Shall I start there? I spent too many years revising that one. Was that perseverance? Or foolishness? The second novel, Night Swim, is more recent. I only spent about seven years on that one, including about four years when I tucked it in a dark closet, as if planting it like a tulip bulb might bear flowers for some future spring. That one hasn’t sold yet either; but this fall I culled four excerpts from it, submitted them as short stories and placed them with four different lit mags. Another excerpt garnered a grant. Two more excerpts were published last year. So, I’m hoping again. Or am I just foolish? Then there’s my third and most recent novel, Love, Death & Hunger. I’ve only spent two years on it so far, and I have hopes for that one, too. It’s too early to wonder about the foolish part.

Persevere? I want to keep going. I love to keep going. Maybe, I have to keep going. The alternative (to stop) is worse, because to stop is to go nowhere, I think. Persevering means I’m still heading for a place that has meaning, a place I believe in, a place that matters.


P.S. I love the name of your sons’ new band. Good for them for getting out there!


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I’m doing research for my new novel and came across this quote: “All sorrows can be borne if they can be put in a story.” – Isak Dinesen

Maybe this is why we keep at our writing and our submitting.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I’m glad you’re here, Heather. And this is why I like the company of writers. Because all of this makes sense to us – how we spend our time, how we dream and create, how we are rejected more than we’re accepted, but still it’s what we choose to do…


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Wow, now that is something I hadn’t considered, but I think you’re exactly right: There’s never been a time in history when it was easier to get your work out there.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Yeah, this is what I’m talking about. I know a lot of writers have been at this for three or five years, and already feel the wear and tear of revisions and rejections. But some of us have been at this, and hoping, for decades.

I agree that the alternative (to stop) feels like death itself. Some folks in this thread have talked about the creative process, to focus on the creating. I have both loved and hated the creating process, and that’s not really what’s driving me. I’m creating because I want, and have wanted for years and years and years, to communicate something. I think why a lot of us persevere is because we are waiting to be heard, to finally say something in just the right way so that… You know, I’m with you, Jess. When I open my mouth to talk about perseverance and writing, it’s just hard to get the words out.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I’m embarrassed to admit, I was casting my neighbors more than I was casting actual actors. (I hope my neighbors aren’t reading this!)


Amy_Nathan January 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm

You crack me up — that’s great. (Me too!!)


jessicaK January 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Yeh. Yeh. Yeh. Communicating something. That’s it, too. But the other thing that silences me is not wanting to sound like a contestant on that old show: Queen for A Day. That was a show that featured the most desperate of desperate mothers, the ones with 17 children, who lived in a paper bag under the Lincoln Tunnel in NYC. On that show, the more pathetic and sad your story, the greater your chance of winning a new washer and dryer, and getting crowned Queen for A Day (or something like that). You got to walk down an aisle, too, with everyone weeping and applauding! Oh, Lord. Don’t weep for me. But I’ll take the applause!


Heather_Fowler January 6, 2009 at 3:58 pm

You know, Susan, I love to hear about the ones who have been at it for decades without commercial success yet because I think this experience is far more common than any sort of instant celebrity. Some days, I start on a self-kicking cycle of, “Wasted. All these years wasted. Why can’t I get it together? More than a decade. What now? Why can’t I make myself get more work out? Should I self publish? Would that ruin my desired career as an academic down the line? What should I do? Edit more? Network more? More conferences? I should have done an MBA. I should have gone into Psychology. I could try to force those novel ideas out. I could A,B,C,D…” And then I also meditate on the idea that sometimes a credential like a professorial appointment or a connected mother/father or a wealthy contact is all that is the difference between acceptances at top-tier venues–and rejections–hello, unfair hardly plumbed slushpile of doom–what happened to talent being the criteria?! Also, I think it’s criminal that it is a nearly well-substantiated fear that book-length contests that request lists of pubs at the start of manuscripts sometimes do use these lists in biased ways that impact how far a manuscript will go in any given competition… And then I feel depressed about that. Also, as I move along in my discovery route, what has really depressed me in the last few years is that many people I thought of as GODS of LITERATURE as an undergrad and during my first few years of submitting are not, many of them, even getting decent pay for their brilliant work. Yet they are still the torch-bearers, the light spreaders, the people I admire more than the wealthiest people on the planet. So I think, now more than ever, after years of doing this for me, your point about getting your message out is key. And refusing to forget that what you do, what you put out there, could be life-changing or reinforcing for someone else two days or two hundred years from now–it is common for writers to die in shame and poverty, after all–so maybe we just need to not focus on current signs-of-the-market or our length of time-spent-doing versus success…

(I choose to believe I will be ever so famous when I’m dead, so try very hard to not worry about it now. *grins*)

I do try ever so hard to write what matters to me, though–and remember the thanks I feel towards other writers who have opened up new ideas for me creatively and given me permission to go my own way regardless of the societal/commercial outcome.. And I’m sure you and I both know that sublime moment when we read something that makes our hearts expand, makes us feel like the air is rarefied and precious, like our children are more beautiful than ever to us, that our life is so special as we come up gasping for breath after a book that we rejoice in consuming because of the beauty that someone created that gave us awe, AWE we then wanted to pass on with our own work to new unknown audiences who might need our specific voice for one reason or another. Yeah, that.

Perseverance could just be a special brand of acknowledged debt to those who came before and the refusal to believe our words aren’t worthy of whatever we want from them. I love the following quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and I think of it often as I sit at work at my dayjob, on days when I’d rather be writing, when I sometimes worry about the damaging effects of rejection on my self-view and how hard it may be to make it: “No one can make me feel inferior without my consent.” Man, this quote helps me focus every single time. “That’s right, Eleanor!” I say.

So if it takes me fifty years to make it, that student or reader who comes along sixty years later might be glad I kept trying, oblivious to my long haul as I have been oblivious to the long haul of many of my mentors. And making it–“making it” is relative. On the days someone says something sweet to me like, “I remember that story you wrote about xxx,” and it was a story I published a decade ago, I say: “Yeah, mama! That is the shiznit right there! Someone remembered one of MY stories for a ten year period! Wow, I love what I do. I am the bomb! I will be remembered! I WAS remembered and how cool is that? Very cool!” *grins*

(I might have to do the happy, grateful dance then, too.) xo! H


Aurelio January 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm

It’s also good to remember it is much easier for agents and publishers to say no than yes. “Yes” takes guts, because “no” means they don’t have to do anything, or take any responsibility for the work’s possible failure. “No” may have far more to do with their current mood or situation than your work.

I think it’s fair to give rejections as much weight as the rejecting party gave your work.


darbylarson January 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm

I think I’m still addicted to finding new creative processes that endurance doesn’t come into the equation. I probably need another twenty years to get through all the writers I feel I still need to read and learn from though, but as long as there are new things to try. Another thing, oppositely, is that I don’t think I want to communicate anything. I’m simply addicted to the act of communication, and that opens the language up for me, to find new ways of saying nothings. Also, the Dylanism: an artist should never arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere, as long as you keep moving around you’ll be alright. Which I take to mean never find your voice, rather be always in a process of looking for it.


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 11:28 pm

I know that thought process and every one of those fears! Thanks for this, H. xo


SusanHenderson January 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Yeah, I’m with you on always wanting to read more and learn more. Your writing process/experience is so different from mine, I love hearing about it.


robinslick January 7, 2009 at 11:23 am

I came to this thread late and can’t read all the comments now but basically Jessica and Susan, since I was able to fully read yours…well, you two say it all, anyway.

I wish I had chosen another “profession” – but writing is my life and I just can’t stop, even though God knows I’ve tried. (insert smiley face emoticon here).

Anyway, I did watch the You Tube of Phonebook and they are absolutely fabulous. Are Green Hand and Bach Boy All-Stars yet? (That is the “elite” group at Rock School) Surely they are ready now…I cannot believe how far they’ve come so quickly. Brilliant kids, just like their parents. But yay music!


SusanHenderson January 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Bach-Boy will be old enough to audition this summer, but I don’t know if I’m ready to trek into Hell’s Kitchen every week, if he gets in. But there is some weird and unlikely interest from HwrdStern crew right now, sparked by someone who caught their coffee shop gig.


Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 7, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Sue, your boys were born to be rockstars.

Endurance. There is something in me that feels like I must earn my place in publishing. I struggle with a meme that says because you arent *this* or haven’t done *that* or went *here* or lived *there* that I will never be published. That struggle kept me from writing my first novel until I was 43. Even though that novel didn’t sell, just completing it purchased new ground in my battle against that self-depreciating meme.


Heather_Fowler January 7, 2009 at 3:31 pm

xo! I should correct myself here. The quote is “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Funny, huh, how I have internalized the message now and think it spoke to “me.” *grins*


robinslick January 7, 2009 at 4:26 pm

That’s fantastic! Exposure like that would be amazing. Ha ha – I think Paul himself would kill to be on Howard’s show. Man, do what you have to do make it happen!

We have our own family drama going on. Eric got “the call”, meaning, a famous band wants him to audition. He understands his first priority is to Adrian and Julie and he’d never leave that band, but it’s an offer he can’t turn down if he, um, passes the audition. Please, please, please we need to keep this info here. Luckily, the music world is so screwed right now most musicians are in more than one band, anyway. But this was huge and we are all beaming…I mean, just getting the call is huge, whether he gets the gig in the end or not. And seriously, that’s all I can say on the subject.


SusanHenderson January 7, 2009 at 10:25 pm

Wish him luck on the audition. I’m dying to hear details!


SusanHenderson January 7, 2009 at 10:27 pm

All of the rockstar stuff has happened accidentally. Almost everyone we know plays music, so they’re just around it, and they’ve learned to join in. The trick is that, everytime someone asks them to play, they get hired or invited to the next thing. But they’re having fun and learning discipline and the flexibility and non-perfectionism required to survive in a band, so it’s all good.

(Sometimes that first novel gets a new life after two and three sell…)


mlakers January 8, 2009 at 10:20 am

I love this topic, Sue. It’s near and dear to my heart. Persistence is what it’s all about, if you ask me. Talent is important, but I know a lot of talented artists and writers who don’t have the fortitude to keep smashing against the door until it caves, and that’s what you have to do. Or, go in the window. Or, try the chimney. You know, whatever it takes.

One of the ways I cope is to periodically give myself permission to give up (oh, maybe once a year or so). I say to myself, “It’s okay, Mary. You don’t have to do this. You can stop this punishment. No one will think less of you. You’ve given it your best shot. And you can put down the pen…you can step away from the computer.” And it’s almost a grieving that takes hold of me…I wallow in self-pity for a day or two, swear off writing…and then, once I’ve fully surrendered, something hopeful and determined inside me gets reborn, and I pick myself up by my bootstraps (as my grandmother used to say) and keep going.

I do this sometimes when backpacking, too. When I’m exhausted after miles and miles of tough trail, or when we take a wrong turn and have to backtrack, or when it simply feels like we’ll never, ever get there, I allow myself a mini-sit-down-pity-break to wallow in the awful possibilities, “We’ll never get there before dark, we’re running out of water, we’re lost, we’re going to die!” For about sixty seconds I really allow the desperation to encompass me. Then, I stand up, take a deep breath, put my pack back on, and keep walking because there’s nothing else to do.


SusanHenderson January 8, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I agree with everything you said about talent and persistence. Hey, I’m going to link your new book here, too:


zett January 9, 2009 at 12:54 am

I love this.


zett January 9, 2009 at 12:57 am

I’m not an optimist at all (Sue knows) but you know, if you are who you are and do what you do, then there is nothing else, really, than being and doing just that. So in my own chopped up way, I agree with you both.


mlakers January 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

Thank you, doll! 🙂


marilynpeake January 12, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I find that, in order to continue writing, I have to be open to changing my goals as the publishing field goes through its own changes. My initial goal, and now my long-term goal, is to write a novel that interests an agent and gets published by a big publishing house. In the meantime, I’ve had several books published by a small publishing house, received good reviews and won some awards. Each of those accomplishments means a lot to me and keeps me going. My writing-related resolutions for 2009 are: 1.) Complete the novel I’m writing and balance that with free time and exercise, 2.) Try to get short stories published in print magazines. (Two of my short stories have passed the initial screening at two different print magazines and are now being considered by their editorial staff.), and 3.) After I complete my novel, submit it to literary agents; write more short stories and read lots of books and magazines while submitting my novel.


SusanHenderson January 12, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Ooh, good luck with those print magazines, sounds like you’re almost there!

And do you know what’s inspiring me to exercise every day? I figure if Obama, while trying to fix the economy, Gaza, India/Pakistan, etc, can work out 90 minutes a day, then I can do 45. I mean, it’s hard to use my past excuses about how busy I am with important work. The workouts are half-hearted, and I use books instead of weights, but at least I’ve been consistent.


marilynpeake January 13, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I feel the same way about exercise after seeing how Obama sticks to exercise. Given his tremendous responsibilities, I’d probably be eating donuts for energy by now. 🙂


gerrywall February 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

You have posed a fundamental question Susan – here are a few thoughts. The need to be single minded in pursuing your publishing goal extends well beyond publishing – it seems to be a necessary characteristic of achieving any major career or life goal. And if by some fluke there is success without perseverance, I doubt if it is a lasting success. Enduring is hanging in when that is all one can do – persevering is sticking with it until you get what you seek…..I do think that the Internet offers all sorts of ways for writers, musicians and other artists to build and reach a community of interest without reliance on conventional intermediaries (like publishing houses or record labels). At the very least, the Net offers a way of DIY learning about distribution and promotion that will ultimately help you if and when the big break comes…..BTW, good for you in posting the kids music video – it’s a thrill to see their first steps – on-line!….Gerry


SusanHenderson February 6, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I agree. And I know you’re in a similar business of arts and determination and chance, so I know you understand. I think what’s hard to maintain is ongoing focus over an extended period of time while also getting rejected again and again. I won my biggest writing award over 20 years ago, and it looked like my career would come fast and furiously. Anyone who’s not an artist at heart, would have quit dreaming about 19 years ago, and I’m still here, writing every day, dreaming big, but if I stop and take reality in, I can get so crushed I can hardly stand up again. You know?

Glad you’re here, Gerry.


gerrywall February 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm

I do know Susan – and I hope it’s not that misery loves company, but it’s a
comfort that you do too (!).

I agree with the need for continued focus. I think that only comes from
self-discipline . . . and it also help to have drive. Put the two together
and you can do some amazing things – even if takes 40 years or even if the
effort never sees a public light of day. Rock on Susan.



SusanHenderson February 8, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Here’s to self-discipline and drive and good fortune!


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