Winter has embraced my tiny part of the world, and time often seems to stand still amidst the darkness and cold. While the last few leaves persistently cling to the branches as an indicator of the impending slumber of the season, I’m reminded of my childhood spent in the mountains. I was a lonely child with no brothers and no sisters, isolated away from the nearest neighboring children, but the three years I spent there were wonderful. One of my favorite activities in the fall was chopping wood for the stove, our only source of heat. I don’t know why I liked it so much, but I found myself getting lost in the rhythm, and within my thoughts. Chop, chop, chop. It was meditation in its purest form to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It never seemed like hard work, because I enjoyed every bit of it. To this day, I miss chopping wood in the fall and through the winter.
Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.
In many ways, chopping wood is a lot like writing a book. It can make your hands cramp, and your shoulders sore, and your head echo with the empty thump of a headache. It can seem endless, with another pile of wood waiting to be turned into kindling or stacked to dry. It becomes tedious and monotonous, overwhelming to some, but comforting to others. And I suspect, like writing, chopping wood is not as enjoyable now that I’m older. Some days I hate it. Everything has always come so effortlessly to me, but not writing. I’ve grown bored with most other pursuits that I’ve enjoyed, and while I’ve never mastered anything, I’ve molded myself into a Jack of All Trades. But writing…is an elusive concept, with a wider variety of subjects, styles and applications than any other art form. The potential is unlimited for what can be created or destroyed with little more than a sentence or two. Hope can be restored, or hearts can be broken. Shadows can dance with sunshine in every word you write, if you so desire. But I digress.
Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.
Time is a luxury none of us can afford. We all need more of it. No one will ever have enough. There is nothing you can do to stall its passage. That is why we need perseverance. That is why we must keep chopping wood even as the snows begins to pile around our knees. No one will write it for you. Few will care until is finished. Some won’t care until you win the only award they’ve ever heard of, or you sign a movie or television deal. It doesn’t matter anyway. All that matters is that you keep writing, keep pushing ahead, keep swinging that axe. The best thing about chopping wood? At the end, is spring. A glorious reward for the hard work you have done. I get the same feeling from spring as I do finishing my writing, whether it is a short story or a novel. I hope that feeling never gets old.
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
-John Quincy Adams
The only way to succeed is to persevere. All of the talent in the world will only get you so far, which is usually couch surfing for a few years in your 20s while you make grand excuses for your grand failures. If you don’t do it then it will never get done. Don’t worry about the things that are outside of your control, they are just distracting you from the real work at hand, which is finishing your next book. Chop, chop, chop.
I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.
-John D. Rockefeller
Almost everyone has heard “you never fail until you give up”, and I believe this to be true. I consider it one of the few hardline philosophies I have, but there is a wonderful benefit to it. Until the day you turn off your computer, put away your keyboard, and never write another creative or informative word for publication again, traditional or otherwise, you are an Author, and no one can take that from you unless you let them.
By perseverance the snail reached the ark.
Some days the miles fly by as I type out words by the thousands. Some days, I crawl along like a fly without wings, measuring progress in increments of nothingness. Often, the well dries up completely, and the crops wither in the drought. Doubt sets in and I begin to wonder if I will ever write another word again. Perhaps not everyone feels this way, but I certainly do. Sometimes the words flow through me like a torrent, as though they were once a trickling stream, swollen to a raging, gushing river by the spring thaw. Other times it feels like I’m stranded in a desert, and no matter how deeply I dig into the shaded sand, I cannot produce so much as a drop. Those tough times, those lean stretches where I wonder if I’ll ever finish anything ever again, are what makes the good times so damn good. If it were easy, I don’t think I would appreciate it as much as I do. Sometimes it certainly feels easy enough. The rest of the time, it is impossible, insurmountable, overwhelming and beyond my capabilities.
Thinking is an experimental dealing with small quantities of energy, just as a general moves miniature figures over a map before setting his troops in action.
So, I keep writing. I keep chopping wood. As the sun sets earlier each day, I remind myself that at the end of the long, frozen nights and cold, shortened days is another beautiful, wondrous spring.
Chop. Chop. Chop.
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