Monday, April 27, 2009

30-Day Persistence Challenge: Motivating Yourself into Persistence

Recently, I did a story for on "The Power of Persistence." In it, I interviewed Damon Brown, the freelancer whose amazing persistence I chronicled during the Marketing Challenge.

In the article, I describe the similarly inspiring work Brown is now doing on another story:

He’s currently in talks with a prospective client to write a lengthy feature after pitching the editor more than 20 stories over the past four years.

“Here I am, with a tough publication, pitching in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and they’re heavily considering a major feature that’s probably worth $5,000,” he says.

The way he got there, he said, was a combination in believing in his story ideas, ruthless self-appraisal, and doing the tedious follow-ups that have built the relationship with his editor.

This points out one of the challenges of persistence: Persistence is about boundaries--and who likes boundaries, especially when those boundaries keep you from experiencing pleasure? It's sensation--bodily sensations of which we're usually scarcely aware--that drives us. If something isn't pleasurable, we avoid it. It doesn't matter that in the long run that the physical sensation of selling a story you love is usually one of elation if the feeling every month when you follow up, or when you get a rejection is depression and hopelessness.

That's why I suggest there are a few ways to motivate yourself to be persistent. For the sake of discussion, let's just say the persistence is about querying to your goal every week (say, four queries a week). For most of us, it's emotions that motivate us. Here are the top three. Which motivates you?

"If I don't do this, my business will fold and I'll have no money again and I'll be evicted and I'll end up living on the street--and that will make it really hard to get new work! Plus, I'm a bad person if I can't get it together to query. Bad freelancer! Bad!"

As Brown says, "“I have a mission to cover pop culture and subcultures that are misunderstood. I really believe in this feature idea. I have the attitude, ‘We have to talk about it.’”


"I really want that new purse/to buy that house/to have a cushy retirement/to go to the chiropractor, and selling this story will help me do that. Oh man, I want it so much I can taste it, I can feel the weight of that purse on my arm. What else do I need to do to get it?"

"It's so fun to come up with these ideas. It's like a game to shuffle around my ideas with markets to find the right fit. I find it intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. Plus, writing queries is its own art. What can do with them today?"

Those are the big three. (Have another? Leave it in the comments.)

What I find, however, is that no motivation is pure. My desire and joy must overrule my fear to get me to send the query. So consider that next time you want to avoid your querying:
  • What's the joy, what's the desire and what's the fear?
  • Are they rational?
  • And what's the long-term benefit?

Photo by baejaar, apologies to the grammarians in the audience.

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