The Meaning of Persistence

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I asked people on Facebook to tell me what they’d like me to address on the blog. One responder said:

Is it still possible to get a book deal these days if you have a great story but you aren’t a celebrity and it’s not a story that’s on the front pages?ย  I know a good story, I know how to write, I meet deadlines, and I get really nice letters back from literary agents – but still no agent. If I was a celebrity, I’d have one. Super frustrating!

Well, the answer is simple: yes.

There are debut authors getting published in all genres. If that wasn’t the case, why in the world would an agent accept queries?ย Queries are mostly from unpublished writers. If it were impossible for non-celebrities to get published, then agents wouldn’t accept queries, and they wouldn’t attend writers’ conferences either. They’d just put big “Closed” signs on their websites and never look at incoming submissions or try to meet new writers. We don’t do that, because we’re always looking for new books from new authors.

The reason it’s so hard is that the number of “slots” available for debut authors in traditional publishing is shrinking, while the number of writers pitching books is growing.ย This is a field with a ridiculous amount of competition, kind of like acting or singing. Sometimes it’s a numbers game. The marketplace is crowded.

If traditional publishing is your goal, then there’s no substitute for persistence. I’ve found that a lot of people think they know what persistence means until they’ve gotten numerous rejections. Trying to get published feels like an uphill battle, they get super frustrated, and they forget that this is exactly the moment when persistence is supposed to kick in. Persistence isn’t a factor when you’ve just started. Persistence is what’s needed after the 20th and the 50th and the 200th rejection.

Persistence doesn’t mean just keep trying the same thing over and over. It means persisting to find what will work. Continuing to become a better writer. Seeking out the agents who might like your work. Improving your pitch. Doing everything you can until you find the right path for yourself.

And guess what? If we allowed ourselves to, agents could be just as frustrated as you are about the whole “celebrity” thing. We could sit around and bemoan the latest million-dollar book deal and be frustrated that the agents who rep famous people have it easy. (Actually, sometimes we do sit around and complain about that.) But then we get back to work.

Just like you. Get back to work.

Can you relate to this frustration?

47 Responses

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  1. Persistence is Jesus, standing at the door to your heart, a door that only opens from within. He’ll wait your whole life long, just for you.
    * To spread His Good News, we have to walk in His Footsteps, and stand in His Patience. Wrapped in the folds of our persistence is His Glory.

    • Hesitant to add this, but I have one more thought, a personal one, on persistence. It’s way egotistical, but I hope that there is some resonance, somewhere, in someone.
      * Today I reached a milestone; I did my age in a single set of feet-elevated pushups, and I’m old enough to clearly remember JFK’s assassination. That was a lot of pushups. It was easy to lose count.
      * Getting to this place took a lot of persistence, and never mind the fact that achieving it pretty well wrecked my day and caused my body to do things I will forbear to describe.
      * In the long view, the persistence is meaningless; it can be seen as giving the finger to a patiently and cruelly implacable fate, and I will not be able to keep it up. I know this.
      * But in the flame of pain, and in the bright blood left on the floor of the exercise room, there is an illumination that for the moment defeats the gathering darkness. And in that moment is eternity, not found in its length, but in its breadth and depth.

      • Persisting in pushups? Congratulations, Andrew, on your perseverance and strength. Seriously, I haven’t done my age in pushups in decades (not even the wimpy, bent knee, girly ones). Your perseverance and strength show in more than physical exercise, Andrew. It’s there in your strong spirit, quick mind and deep sympathy.

      • Shrilee, your words mean more than I can say. Thank you so much.

      • The knee-bent girly ones are the only ones I can do … but I’m getting stronger ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been working at it since July 4th time-frame. One day I’ll attempt the real kind and hopefully be surprised to master one. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Carol Ashby says:

        I’m a real wuss. I do the standing push-ups from the bathroom counter, which are supposed to be as good as the girly ones.

      • Andrew, I am so impressed! There is no way I could do my age in pushups, even the girly ones I do on the cou yet or wall. I just started being able to finally do some with my knees on the floor! You were spent the rest of the day? I was spent before I got to 10 girl we ones. Have a great Thanksgiving with Barb and all who gather round you.๐Ÿ˜Š

      • Shelli, your perseverance and faith will be your strength, and I have no doubt that by next July 4 you’ll be able to bench-press a Buick. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Carol, the standing pushups have a lot of value.

      • A wondefrul Thanksgiving to you and yours, Elizabeth!

      • Andrew, I was praying for you and it occurred to me that you did your push ups on Nov 21st going by the time stamp on your first blog comment. I clearly remember JFK’s assassination too, so that means you are around my age, sixty or older. That’s a TON of push ups to do when you have been less active for a while. Your comment about hurting was the next morning on Nov 22nd at 6:58 AM. Then Carl’s comment about your email asking for prayer was time stamped Nov 22, 7:55 AM and then you had a comment about the pain being real bad on Nov 23, 12:07 AM, with another in between there to Jan on Nov 22, 4:52 PM. I worked as a telephone triage nurse for about eight years and had to triage all ki ds of situations, ages of people, conditions, etc and had to detetmone what to recommend throughout the spectrum of doing homecare to calling 911 for them and staying on the phone until they are in the care of the first responders.

        In this situation taking all into account, although, I would ask more questions if we were in person. Look me up on Facebook under Betsy Bohan from Minnesota and we can always use messenger.

        Anyway dear Andrew, I think your athletic prowess with the pushups inflamed your muscles and your intercostal ligaments between your ribs. Like a over zealous workout. So since you are DNR, I say put cool picks on the areas, thin cotton towel between the cold pack and your skin. Use frozen peas, corn or the like if you have no ice pack. You can even wet a hand towel, wring it out and put it in your freezer for a while. Put it on 15 to 20 minutes at a time with an hour off in between. If you like pineapple and it doesn’t bother you eat some every day. It has Bromelain which is a natural anti inflammatory and take Vitamin C and zinc which helps tissues heal. I could say more, but let’s connect on messenger. Enjoy your Thanksgiving dear Andrew and (tongue in cheek) don’t try to show off your athletic prowess to your beloved Barb. I’m sure she would have been thrilled with …um, ten. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  2. I don’t think of it as rejection. The story isn’t quite ready yet. Or it’s not the right place. Or it’s not the right time . . . yet.
    **The story needs tweaking. Or I need tweaking. Oh yeah, I need LOTS of tweaking. And God’s just the one to do it.

  3. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for your words, Rachelle. Persistence is a choice, sometimes a moment-by-moment decision that I am going to keep pressing forward.
    *I’ve felt the frustration. Sometimes I just need to take my eyes off of the unknowns and “What If’s” and get back to work.
    *Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  5. Can I relate to the frustration? Absolutely! But reality is what it is, and it is sheer folly for me, or anyone else to scream that reality should change to alleviate some of my frustration. It reminds me of the Acts 9:5 line in the King Jim Bible where Jesus says to Saul, “It is hard for thee to kick against the goads.” Well … yeah!! The goad does not move, and I end up with a bruised and bloodied foot. So stop kicking it already. Just do what you have to do to get where you want to be. Ignore the pain, frustration, anxiety. Just keep walking forward and eventually you will reach your destination.

  6. Need to ask you all for prayers. The sun rose a metaphorical red, and I’m hurting bad. I am very, very frightened.
    * A wonderful Thanksgiving to all.

    • Jackie Layton says:

      Andrew, you’re in my prayers.

    • Praying for you, Andrew. I thank God for you.

    • I’m praying extra hard for you today.

    • Andrew, I know you have mentioned your fear of death before on this blog and that you have only seen violent death, and I told you my stories that helped you my dear brother and friend. Death itself is just a step through the veil from the physical earthly dimension to the invisible spiritual dimension. The Heavenly Father does not want you to fear even though this is like walking into the unknown, and for you many times you saw horrible physical things that brought people to that point. I think of it in this manner, a childish explanation but then again we are all still children at heart with dreams, desires, fears, and tears. So, it would be like using the sheet on your bed to play peek a boo, only I say, here I am now, then flip the sheet and say , and now I’m in heaven, and then I can speed it up: earth, heaven, earth, heaven. I know you worry about Barb and your dogs. That is only normal and to be expected. But remember the same Holy Spirit that will take you home is the same Holy Spirit that lives in Barb and will continue to live in her and bring her Home one day to heaven.

      I know this may seem strange to all of you that I’m able to talk so candidly about life and death, but it is what I have lived in both my nursing and with family and friends. I will be praying for you and Barb, and know this Andrew, there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and His name is Jesus. Place your head against His chest and let Him hold you. Picture it. The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you dear one. Prayers, your sister in the faith and your nurse.

      • You really caught me with this, Elizabeth; more time than I can count, I have wanted to hide my head ‘neath the covers until the bad things go away.
        * We so appreciate your prayers and support. Far more than I can say.

    • Patrice Doten says:

      Praying for you, Andrew!

    • Damon Gray says:

      Always, brother. You and Barb are always in our prayers.

  7. Jackie Layton says:

    Rachelle, your post came at a perfect time for me. I’ve been thinking about what I need to do differently. You’ve encouraged me to persist. Thanks!

  8. Yes!!! So true. It kind of reminds me of childbirth. Just when you get to the point of “I can’t do this anymore!” that’s when things seem to be close to happening.

    Im still there in a lot of ways. Was asking the question, “How do you know when it’s time to walk away?” But I kept going. Kept tweaking. Kept trying. And while I haven’t landed an agent yet, there’s more movement than there has been up until this point.

    Such a timely post, Rachelle. Thank you.

  9. Carol Ashby says:

    Your comments on persistence really hit home as I start my second slow-crawl read-through of the pdf of my latest that will release next week. After more than a dozen edits by me, plus even more by a critique partner, three betas, and a partial line edit, I thought it was error-free before I sent it to my interior designer. Nope. I found about 20 things (missing end “, missing periods and a couple places where I tightened the writing) in 450 pages. Then my alpha beta found 3 more, so I’m reading it through one more time even though I really, REALLY am tired of doing this. So far, I’ve found 2 I missed the first time. and I have 300 pages to go. But like you say, persistence is the only way to reach a goal as a writer, and mine is turning out something that truly serves God, typo-free.

    *Your statement about persistence not being simply doing the same thing over and over is spot on. The definition of magical thinking is doing the identical thing and expecting a different and better result. I’ve learned so much from your blogs on how to persist while improving the way I do things. Thanks!

  10. Carol Ashby says:

    Off topic, but not really. Andrew just emailed that he is having chest pain and difficulty breathing. He would REALLY appreciate prayers today.

    • Been praying. Will comtinue.

    • I’m coming late to the blog, but I’m concerned about Andrew. That does not sound good at all, and I’m most certain he is DNT, Do Not Resuscitate (welcome to my world) but I would be telling him to let his doctor know at least if he didn’t want to be seen or taken to ER. My heart goes out to him and Barb. Carol please make sure he reads my post and that I’m stepping up my prayers for him. Thanks.

      • Elizabeth, yeah, definitely, DNR. No ER; no point in running up a patient-responsibility for Barb. I got trained pretty well to keep myself alive (lots of $$$ spent by unnamed acronyms) and I’m using every trick in the book, for I do not want to die.

  11. Over-confidence can often times be just as challenging as over-writing. When we think we are becoming good writers, usually after a few years pass, we look back to discover we weren’t nearly as good as we thought. Becoming publishable, it seems, is a process for most. The question I’ve been asking myself lately: How far into my heart am I willing to attempt to go?

  12. Tracy Line says:

    Great post!

  13. Gayla Grace says:

    Yes, I can relate, but I also know it CAN happen. I signed with an agent at a writers conference last year. I landed my first book contract with a traditional publisher a couple of months ago and will have a book out in 2018. But it took A LOT of persistence to make it happen. The motto of my journey is: If you have a message and you know how to write, don’t give up! Continue to pray for God to open just the right door. And take the next step to keep moving forward.

  14. I’m still waiting for my books to become best sellers. Probably that will never happen so big houses won’t want me. But, in the meantime, I’ve had lots of things published in newspapers and periodicals. That’s a way to get publishing credits and possibly build an audience. And I’ve even learned a couple of my articles made a difference in the lives of readers. I hope someday to get published by a big house, but I’ll keep writing no matter what.

  15. Thanks so much Rachelle for the post. I can flat out say, persistence is a way of life for me. I don’t give up unless God makes it clear. I don’t care how many hardships, roadblocks or dead ends I come to I just look for an open window, learn more, and keep on keeping on. Persistence pays off, but there is wisdom involved too.

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone, and please include Andrew and Barb in your prayers as well as safety and health for all.

  16. Pat Iacuzzi says:

    Thank you, Rachelle, for driving this lesson home. To me, persistence is a gift, something we use when we take up the work the Lord lays out for us. And yes, at times it’s difficult, but we wouldn’t be on this journey unless there was something wonderful about it; something to test our strength.
    And as for rejection, not to worry. If we’re in His Word, and take joy in it, we’re following the path He’s laid out for us.
    Prayers for you, Andrew. Always–and always– praying for you, sir.
    May you all have a peaceful holiday season in Christ.