Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] Perseverance

I was emailing with someone yesterday and mentioned that it was eleven years from the time I workshopped my first story (summer, 1990) to the time I made my first sale (spring, 2001). (See my Facebook thread on this for a ton of comments from various folks.) In that time, I wrote one or two or sometimes three stories a month, sent out hundreds of submissions, and workshopped twice a month for most of the decade. That's the value of perseverance, right there.

It still amuses me that now, ten years after that first sale and twenty-one years after I got serious about trying to be an author, some people still seem to think I was some sort of overnight success. That's a long damned night. I am who I am today in my writing life and in the field because of years of toiling alone in complete obscurity, then slowly engaging and emerging into the company of writers as I earned my place with my efforts.

Do I have talent? In all honesty, I rather think I do. But talent wouldn't have gotten me anywhere without all those years of perseverance.

Do I have an easy, extroverted personality that helps me fit in and get along with damned near everybody who bothers to try to get along with me? Well, yes, but that's an artefact of my middle age and has nothing to do with the millions of words of first draft I've written. I was for many years young, socially awkward and unpublished.

Do I have good connections in the field? Yes, now after twenty-one years of effort, countless hours at conventions and workshops, and many publications in most of our major and independent markets. I didn't get published because I know people. I know people because I got published. A lot of times over the years.

Everything I've earned, my publications, my public persona in the field, my network of friends and associates: it all comes down to perseverance. Writing. Constantly. Last year, with six months of chemotherapy and a round of liver surgery slowing me down, not to mention a full-time job I never took off from during my illness and a teen-aged daughter in the house, I still wrote a quarter million words of first draft, and roughly that much again in blogging. Which wouldn't be a bad total for a full-time writer working with no major distractions. This year's numbers will be fairly similar, under fairly similar circumstances. That's what keeps earning me my place at the table. Not talent, or being fun at parties and a dab hand with a microphone, or knowing a bunch of writers and editors. Writing.


If you want to see your work published, be on panels, emcee the Hugos, get to know your writing heroes, all the fun stuff that goes with being a working writer, then, well, write. And write more. I've been doing it for two decades, and am still just as serious and hard-working as I was back at the beginning. More serious and hard-working, frankly. 1990 me would have been appalled at the prospect of writing an entire 250,000 words in year. 2011 me is appalled at writing only 250,000 words in a year.

Write more. Keep writing. Everything else flows from that.

Tags: cancer, child, health, personal, process, writing

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