By Jessa Russo
First of all, if you’re joining us during NaNoWriMo, I want to tell you that participating in an event that pushes you toward completing an entire first draft in one month—whether you are an old pro or a newbie—is a very big, very awesome thing. You’ve taken the first step toward chasing your dream of publication and should be quite proud of yourself.
I’m proud of you, if that counts for anything.
But that’s beside the point.
Perseverance. You’re going to need it this month, maybe more than you even realize. But persevering through NaNo is just one small fraction of training for the writing career you no doubt aspire to have. So, let’s get right to it.
I can tell you how I’ve persevered in my writing journey—and I have, no doubt. I can tell you the negatives, and how they often feel far greater than the positives. I can detail my signing and eventual parting with two different agents, walk you through my folders of rejections (100+). I can tell you how I’ve persevered through regret and rash decisions, how I’ve entered and lost contest after contest, how I’ve persevered through negative reviews, ill-intentioned critique partners, stolen concepts… And, again, I definitely have persevered through these things, and no, I didn’t quit even on the days I wanted to (they were many), but those are just my negatives.
I can tell you about the positives, too, about finding the one ride-or-die critique partner I can trust and rely on for anything, or how the positive reviews and the teary-eyed teenage fans make everything worthwhile. I can tell you all about how, with perseverance, I finally landed the dream agent whom I believe was meant for me…
(Shout out to Laura! Hey, girl, hey!)
But simply telling you how I’ve persevered in my writing career isn’t quite enough, is it? Where’s the bit that helps, that motivates, that gives my fellow writers something to cling to?
Well, I’m still not convinced I’ll give you anything quite that profound, but after a few weeks of thought, here’s what I’ve come up with.
Perseverance isn’t just being stubborn; it is that, sure, but it is also so much more. Whether you are in the beginning stages of your very first novel, or the seventh draft of your fifteenth tome, you are a writer because you write, period. Embrace that part of you, for it is awesome. That’s the first step, in my opinion, of persevering. Knowing who you are as a writer and holding fast to that part of you, cherishing that part of you.
Insert any other talent/occupation into that sentence and it still works. Know who you are as a ___________, and embrace it, cherish it.
I began writing in 2009 or so, though I have always been a writer… I just hadn’t realized it. When notebooks upon notebooks were filled with poetry during my teen years, I didn’t realize I was a writer; I thought everyone wrote to get their feelings out. When a professor in my first semester of college requested a copy of my paper on Fight Club (aptly titled “A Man’s Battle with Himself”) so that she could show future classes, I didn’t know I was a writer; I just thought, eh, I must have understood the plot better than most.
In all honesty, even after my first publishing contract, I didn’t truly know I was a writer. It was after, long after, when I finally realized that the tiny voices in my mind, the overly-populated part of my imagination that refused to be silenced, well, that was the special part of me that needed to be embraced, cherished. The need, the almost physical demand to write is what made me accept and believe that I am a writer.
Holding tight to that belief is one aspect of my personal journey of perseverance.
In my personal life, I have recently passed thirteen years with my husband—four of them as a married couple—and as anyone in a relationship can tell you, putting two people into a home and expecting them to be harmonious is difficult. Add to that our utterly opposite views on so many things, or the fact that he’s Math, nuts and bolts, straight lines and grids, and I’m over here like, “Rainbows and unicorns are pretty and we should write books about them”, well, it can be a recipe for conflict at times.
Add to that a child, a couple dogs, a mortgage, and all the other stuff you didn’t anticipate when wishing you could just be a little bit older, well, it’s no surprise that adulting is hard.
But that’s the biggest way I can think to explain what perseverance means to me. I wake up into one of the most rewarding, beautiful lives I’ve ever seen, but at times it can be downright ugly and stormy, and sometimes the downs outweigh the ups… or at least feel as though they do. Sometimes the storm comes and you look at your spouse and think, “Yeah, so, I’m out.”
But you stay. You stay and you dig your feet into the sand as deep as you can so when that storm hits and those waves come, you remain strong in your decision.
That is perseverance.
That is holding tight to what makes you a wife (or husband, girlfriend, partner, parent, writer, artist, etc.), and embracing it, cherishing it, nurturing that oh so important part of yourself. Doing it not just for your loved ones, but for YOU…
That’s how you persevere.
In marriage. In parenting. In friendship. In careers. In chasing dreams.
So, what does perseverance mean to me? I don’t believe that persevering means simply sticking with something until you see results. It is persistence, yes, but it is also presence, patience, and an ability to grow. Every day is a day to be present. I remind myself of this on a daily basis. My daughter will not raise herself; I must be present as her mother. My marriage will not stay intact on its own; my husband and I wake up every day and consciously make a decision to be present in our marriage.
I acknowledge and embrace the part of my brain that needs to write. Whether I write every day like I’d like to, or write weekly, or at times even take a month off for personal care, I am a writer, and embracing that fact, being present in that fact is how I persevere.
And maybe that will help you. Maybe a quick reminder, an affirmation that yes, you ARE a writer is all you need to persevere through the next rejection, or the next bad review, or the next argument with your spouse.
Wake up every day and be PRESENT. That is how you will persevere. Write all the words. Revise them. Enter all the contests. Then enter them again. Query. Hurt with each rejection, allow yourself to feel them, learn from them, grow from them. Then move on. Query again. Enter another contest. read far and wide. Write more words.
Just keep going.
Jessa Russo believes in fairytales, ghosts, and Jake Ryan—she’s pretty sure her heart has never fully belonged to anyone else (apologies, Mr. Russo). When not writing, she can be found watching far too much Netflix, drinking craft beer with her friends, or enjoying a nice Sunday brunch (even if it’s not Sunday). Her stories span the genre field but will always—always—include romance; the steamier, the better.
You can find Jessa on most social platforms as @JessaRusso or writing as @JessalynJameson. Please stay tuned for Jessa’s upcoming new adult dystopian ARK OF DREAMS, set for a July 2016 release from REUTS Publications! As Jessalyn Jameson (@JessalynJameson), her next erotic romance, WHISKEY BURNED, will be released in November 2015!