Monday, June 2, 2008

Cultivating Persistence

I've been a writer and reporter for 15 years, if you include all my schooling. When I started, I was terribly shy. I sat in front of that big, old, clunky, beige phone for an hour sometimes working up my nerve to call a source. I wasn't friendly, or when I was it was forced and, I'm willing to bet, creepy.

But I loved the writing. Writing was my favorite part. Not that it always came easily, but it was what I got into journalism for. I wanted to write every day.

Today, I'm finally following my dream: I want to write more narrative journalism. There's a reason my Web site is called "Writing with a human face." I want to tell those stories. I want to help readers connect with other people. I want to help foster conversations.

I say all this not to promote my business, but because I'm not entirely there yet. But I'm working on it. If you're reading this, you're working on it, too: You're trying to make writing into a career. You're trying to scale the vertical learning curve that is entrepreneurship and managing business finances and cultivating clients and--oh yeah--writing really well.

The way this happens is messy. Take this great, great clip from Ira Glass of This American Life (and really, who doesn't want to be Glass when they grow up?):

This is the same advice that the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Hallman gave at a narrative writing workshop I attended recently through The Society of Professional Journalists. The key nugget I took with me, aside from a few techniques was: be persistent and be brave. Admit you're insecure. We're all insecure. Do it anyway.

It's also the same advice that Erik Sherman gives for querying: if you keep doing it, you're guaranteed to succeed. But you have to keep trying.

This advice falls into the category of "serenity tips that make you feel crazy." This one won't feel good. But it's true. So my wish for you this week is that you make another start at the things that feel like you're failing. Keep going. Send that rejected query out one more time. Try again to do some good writing.

Just try. Again. For today.