Many moons ago I attended a taekwondo tournament in the Minneapolis area. I was either a Second or a Third Degree Black Belt at the time and my competition consisted of some excellent martial artists. In the sparring competition, I faced a gentleman who within a minute executed a spin hook kick to my head. My hands were not up as far as they should have been and I was not fast enough to block in time. As I understand it from witness' reports, my body went both limp and sideways and I hit the floor.
I don't remember much during the next five minutes or so. I think I heard people talking but was unable to respond. In short order I found myself at a local medical center and on the doc's advice was driven to downtown St. Paul to receive a CAT scan to make sure nothing was wrong inside my noggin. Luckily, I recovered with no problems.
For the next two or three years I met this same guy in my ring either during the first or second round of sparring. He didn't knock me out again, but he always beat me. Easily. One year, again in Minneapolis, I was determined that the result were going to be different. I was psyched up and told myself that he might win, but this time he was going to work for it. Unfortunately, he didn't compete that year and soon after, he left the organization.
Perseverance. I kept trying. I never came close to beating him, but I kept trying. In recent years, although I still compete I've not had good scores in my forms competition and usually have been defeated in sparring. I keep trying and last year, when I made the decision to get serious about a fitness regimen to become healthier, carrying less weight, and with better stamina, I also became serious about earning better scores at tournament. And it's worked. I'm still exercising because although I'm stronger, I still need to lose more weight and improve my cardio stamina. Now that warmer weather has arrived, I can get outside for some better exercising.
Writing has been the same way. I started scribbling stories as a child and for a year or so after college while on my own for the first time. In the middle 90s when I created the Mallory Petersen character, I decided that I wanted to get serious about writing and ultimately to get my stories published. However, I was shot down (tactfully) during my first few rounds in a critique group. I wasn't knocked out, just verbally battered around a bit.
I didn't quit. I wrote and wrote. I cranked out short stories every week. I dove in deep on the second Petersen story and also completed my supernatural novel Night Shadows. With Beta and Shadows being refined I looked around for some agent or publisher to accept them. Years passed and finally those first two books were published. I then resurrected the first Petersen story I had laid aside, reworked some angles, persevered, and about a year and a half later queried Oak Tree Press. A little over fourteen months later, Alpha became my first book in printed form as well as an eBook.
I am friends with a writer in Des Moines. We've hung together ever since my early days in my first critique group. She's written several stories but can't seem to get over the hump of getting any accepted. But she keeps trying and one day, she'll join the ranks of published authors.
I've seen too many individuals give up after receiving critiques or those who are never able to get past chapter one or even an outline.
Perseverance. It's always easier NOT to do something. I'd rather go home and go to bed each morning after my night shift job. Sleep would be so much more preferable than spending another hour out running or heading up to the club to exercise. Whiling away the hours reading or watching television is so much easier than picking up a pen and pad and writing the next chapter or the next short story.
But where's the fun in taking it easy? If I hadn't persevered, I wouldn't have reached the rank of Fifth Degree nor would I have three books to my credit.
It is also so easy to say, “Don't give up.” That phrase can be shrugged off. What may get some to thinking is: “Find a reason NOT to give up.” What might happen if you didn't give up? What might be the result if you pushed just a little harder and for one more day?
I don't know, but try it and let me know.
Stephen L. Brayton is a Fifth Degree Black Belt in Iowa and the author of Alpha, published by Oak Tree Press.