The Art of Stubbornness: Death before Disappointment

Mr. Stubborn’s Motto: Death Before Disappointment
Photo: Courtesy of Rebeca Schiller

It’s that time of year of recaps and resolutions. I won’t bore you with either list, but with the exception I will continue to keep plugging away with the writing (I have to, it’s how I earn my living).

I recently came across this anecdote from award-winning writer Richard Bausch:

One important element of this craft and art, it seems to me, is stubbornness. And I mean it as more than simple persistence, or even patience. Sometimes it’s closer to anger than patience. I remember someone saying something to me one night when I was first out of Iowa, and staying late at school to work on my first novel–well, A novel–“How’s that little novel you’re working on coming?” It was probably not meant as witheringly as it sounded, but it cut me. And I remember walking out in the parking lot, late, no one else around, nothing but me and the cold stars and the disappointment and the distance I felt between me and ever doing anything good. I looked up at the stars through my own condensed breath, that cloud, and said, “I AM a writer. I AM. And one day you bastards are gonna know it.” Pure crazy bravado, a puppy barking at the dark. But it made me want to go work some more, and I did. And when it didn’t go well–as it so often didn’t–that angry stubbornness kept me going. If I quit, everyone who said I couldn’t do it, that it was an idle daydream of mine, would’ve been right. I say this not to hold myself up as an example, although this seems to do just that–I say it to hold up the light to a feeling I’d be willing to bet is general among all of us trying to do this very difficult thing well. You ain’t alone.

I’ve been called pig-headed for not budging on certain issues, and tenacious when pursuing something I want badly. Like Bausch I’ve been approached by others, asking me how my little novel was coming along (and by now if you follow these posts, you know nothing I write is little or short), or have commented, “Why would anyone want to read that?”  I usually bit my tongue and never said anything. Inwardly, I’d be seething with anger, but I’ve realized that perhaps I wasn’t as angry as I thought.

When I read stories like Bausch’s I’m encouraged in an odd sort of way. It forces me to channel that innate stubborn quality I have to keep writing every day. I know that some days, weeks, or months, I’ll produce dreck. However, each time I write something god awful I’ll make sure to learn from my errors, 

On that note, dear readers, I am off to finish writing the chapter I started a week ago. It had a questionable beginning, but as I spend a few hour polishing it, I see that there’s potential.

Best wishes for 2015. I have a feeling this will be the year where stubbornness pays off or as that cute little guy in the above reminds me every day: Death before disappointment.