Persevere

Sorry. No pictures this time. Just a little story:

There was once this girl.

She had many strengths and quite a few weaknesses.
She was shy, emotional, stubborn. She could draw and she liked to make things.
It turned out her weaknesses were also her strengths and vice versa,
but she wouldn’t learn that until she was much, much older.

Not the end.

I recently had to put together a curriculum vitae, or CV, of my work. As a freelance illustrator I don’t have the need to do this very often. Thank heavens.

I have a problem. When I have to list everything I have done that someone might want to know about professionally, my head freezes up. It’s like when someone asks you what your favorite song is, and all you can think of is the tune you liked best in 7th grade.

If you are confident in yourself, with never any doubts about your abilities or self-worth, then you can stop reading at this point and go do something else today. I don’t want to bore you.

But if you have difficulty putting yourself forward because of what you haven’t done, then I counsel you to stop, and look instead at what you have accomplished.

If you think all of us who have published books, received awards and recognition, and generally produced some very cool work, don’t shake in our boots when we look at the next level of expectations we have set for ourselves, you are wrong. Every potential success is also a potential failure. And rejection hurts. Yes it does.

Take me, for example: I tend to focus on my failures; my inadequacies; the thing I want to do before I die, but haven’t managed yet. I don’t also see my accomplishments and what I am capable of. Sometimes I have to be reminded by someone who is not myself.

A number of years ago I went to a book-signing event for David Small and his wife and collaborator Sarah Stewart. I had published two children’s books of my own at that point, and was trying to figure out how to write my next book. I spoke with David and Sarah about the insecurity I felt about writing. Before she left, Sarah gave me a card on which she had written “persevere,” along with a sprig of rosemary from her garden.

I have kept that card with its now brittle, little sprig. It reminds me that stubbornness can be a good thing. When you grow up it can become determination. And being emotional can provide you with the empathy necessary to tell good stories and work well with others. Being shy, well, being shy won’t stop you from writing a blog or even giving a speech, and maybe it will keep you from boring others by going on and on about yourself. Maybe.

Unless you are in preschool and have yet to learn to tie your shoes, then you must have done something that took determination and effort. Think about it. What are you proud of having done, and why? Now remember those achievements. Put them into your CV notes before you forget again. When it is time to move forward to the next opportunity, hold your head up, even if you are nervous. Rejection hurts but you move on. You have faced down challenges before and done some impressive things. I am here to remind you.

And this too: Persevere.

Rosemary sprig

12 responses to “Persevere

  1. Stubborn is a good one for this business!

  2. I love this post and particularly the story about keeping the small card and sprig of rosemary. Seemingly small actions can make a huge difference.

    I did a correspondence course on writing for children and later decided to join a local organisation. I knew no one when I went to my first meeting – a Christmas Party with everyone standing around in groups.

    I will be forever grateful to the multi-published author who broke from his clique to talk, listen and welcome me, and then introduce me to his friends and make me feel a valued part of the children’s book community, even without a published book to my name. It was a small act of kindness for him, no doubt long forgotten, but had he not done that, I would have found it easy to have gone home and given up hope of publication, for it took 10 years between finishing the course and the release of my first children’s book.
    In that lean and insecure time, it was wonderful to have other authors reassure me that this is not unusual – keep at it! And while I’ve now had 6 books traditionally published (for adults and children), there continues to often be gaps of years between acceptances.

    When my first picture book was launched 16 years after I first started writing for children, I think my buddies celebrated my persistence as much as the book itself. Yes, persistence does work! Never give up.

  3. Sarah Lamstein

    Thank you for this, Margaret.

  4. Wonderful post. Have you rad Clarissa Pinkola Estes most recent post on Facebook? If you haven’t ….. Go and find it…it will hearten you and help you to persevere …..

  5. This is a little story I needed to hear today. Our weaknesses turned around are our strengths. I am still in the pre-pub stage but have secured an agent. I am struggling to find my place right now as I write. I’d like to throw in the towel, but my writer support system is kicking in to make me PERSEVERE. I needed your words today. Thank you.

  6. Oh my god, Margaret. Tears. This is me in a nutshell, too. Look what you’ve given us – the meat of the nut, the way in, the way out, the pain and delight, “It reminds me that stubbornness can be a good thing. When you grow up it can become determination. And being emotional can provide you with the empathy necessary to tell good stories and work well with others. Being shy, well, being shy won’t stop you from writing a blog or even giving a speech, and maybe it will keep you from boring others by going on and on about yourself. Maybe.”
    Persevere is the word I’m keeping (I’ve never liked, ‘butt in chair’).

  7. beautiful.

  8. stacey dressen mcqueen

    love this, thanks for posting!

  9. Absolutely!

  10. Just what I needed to hear.

  11. Pingback: Shadows and Reflections | Books Around The Table

  12. Pingback: A Sprig of Rosemary and a Paradox to Match | Uma Krishnaswami

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