As a writer, I’m always searching for inspiration (read: procrastinating), but I especially love stories of perseverance because, as anyone who dreams of publication knows, it’s a necessary life skill for those of us brave enough to pursue this little author dream of ours.
I drew so much inspiration this week from watching competitive swimmer Diana Nyad swim from Cuba to Florida.
The feat itself was impressive as all get-out. But what was so much more compelling to me were the number of times she failed in her attempts, only to say, “What can I tweak so I can try this again?” Her first attempt at this swim was in 1978. Thirty-five years ago, people! In 1978, the movie Grease debuted, John Paul II became Pope and the Bee Gees were on record players. Remember record players? Diana Nyad was 28.
She is now 64.
Her first attempt didn’t go so well. Neither did the next three. Here are some of the obstacles she dealt with: strong winds, strong currents, shoulder problems, asthma, dehydration, hypothermia, straying off course, box jellyfish stings, Portugese man-of-war stings, lightening, fifty-three hours of being in the water.
On her fifth attempt, she made it.
It would have been incredible had she achieved success on her first attempt. But seeing the pride and accomplishment on her face when she was interviewed this week—thirty-five years after she declared it a goal of hers—made me actually glad she didn’t. Her victory was all the sweeter for the hurdles that preceded it.
On our writing journeys we can just about guarantee we will get knocked down. A LOT. We put ourselves out there and ask for it and it’s the nature of the business. Some of those rejections will smart like a jellyfish sting. Some of our dreams may take years and years to realize. But if you happen to get a critique note today that’s hard to swallow, or an “I’m afraid this isn’t a fit for me” note from an agent, or even an “I just didn’t connect with this” pass from an editor… don’t give up.
Think of Diana Nyad and jump back into those shark-infested waters.
The victory will be all the sweeter for all the efforts and the tweaks and the knock-downs that preceded it.
Just keep swimming!
(PS- Diana had a thirty-five person support team in a boat beside her for her entire swim. Make sure you do too!)