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Words of Hope for the Rejected Christian Writer


“George Moriarty, Detroit Tigers, 1911” Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

George Moriarty was a major league baseball player with a reputation for stealing bases. I’ve always been impressed with his story, particularly this quote from an artlcle by Eric Enders: 

“He was a weak hitter,” sportswriter Joe Williams once wrote, “but he had that rare something in his makeup which produces leadership, that divine spark that invests mediocrity with might.”

We all approach our dreams with either lackluster or fervor, and those who chose the latter most often succeed. I mentioned the fervor in my last post–Angela Duckworth’s “True Grit.”

Moriarty was also a writer. According to Enders, he used to recite his poetry for “schools, American League banquets, and the like.” One of his poems, “The Road Ahead or the Road Behind” references grit.

He opens with this:

Sometimes I think the Fates must
Grin as we denounce and insist
The only reason we can’t win
Is the Fates themselves that miss

Of course, being a Christian Fiction writer, I think of this more in terms of what God must think of my self doubt. I was reading the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 this past Sunday, just thinking about all the skills God has blessed me with and how I sometimes hold back in using them because of my lack of self confidence. “I’m not good enough” could be translated as “He didn’t create me to be good enough.” And that’s simply not true.

Moriarty continues with this line:

Yet there lives on an ancient claim
We win or lose within ourselves
The shining trophies on our shelves

Can never win tomorrow’s game
You and I know deeper down
There’s always a chance to win the crown

He’s talking about grit here. He even uses the word itself in a later part. Believing we can achieve our goals and fighting for them instead of rolling over and giving up. I love that line about the trophies not winning tomorrow’s game–we have to keep fighting and not just settle for the tiny hints of success we have passed.

But when we fail to give our best
We simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all, and saving none
Until the game is really won

Of showing what is meant by grit
Of fighting on when others quit
Of playing through, not letting up
It’s bearing down that wins the cup
Of taking it and taking more
Until we gain the winning score

Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead
Of hoping when our dreams are dead
Of praying when our hopes have fled
Yet losing, not afraid to fall
If bravely, we have given all

I wish I could find the source for this article I read a few weeks ago about how most people who start out to write a novel never finish. Part of the success of being published is having the tenacity to follow through with writing, editing, and revision until we reach “The End.” Another favorite line from this poem is “hoping when our dreams our dead.” To seek a publishing contract means to seek rejection and hope for that opportunity to push through. We can’t give up when someone tells us they don’t like our story. We just have to work harder to make it better.

Moriarty ends with this:

For who can ask more of a man
Than giving all within his span
Giving all, it seems to me
Is not so far from victory

And so the Fates are seldom wrong
No matter how they twist and wind
It is you and I who make our fates
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead or the road behind.

Yes, God gives us the tools we need to make our fates, but we have to choose how we are going to use these tools. How can we give up on ourselves or settle for mediocrity and follow these simple words from 1 Corinthians 10:31?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

It Takes Grit to Write Novels

For years, I’ve watched a ton of high-ability students underachieve in my science classes. They aspire to go to Ivy League colleges, become six-figure wage earners, and park their fancy cars inside fancy garages attached to fancy homes. And yet they don’t have the wherewithal to sit down and memorize ten facts that would yield an A on a test. Yes, I know education is not about teaching to a test, and yes, I know that rote memorization is a “no-no,” but let’s face it. Without that skill, most of us would have never graduated college.

Memorization is not the easiest thing. You have to work at it, sometimes repeating the same fact over and over a hundred times until you know it. That takes grit–essentially the gumption to not give up, keep working hard, and push until you win the prize.

The same issue strikes would-be authors as they try to muddle their way through a novel. I’ve seen so many people give up on a story after a few bad critiques. Or, they’ve self-published drivel rather than revising tirelessly to make their book great.

I love this TED talk from Angela Duckworth, defining the concept of grit. Every time I et discouraged, I listen again. It inspires me to remember that if I work hard–really hard–at improving my craft, I will be published one day.

She makes the point that:

there is really no domain of expertise where the world class performers have put in fewer than ten years of consistent, deliberate practice to get where they are.

Well, I’ve been writing on and off for about six years, so I guess that means I’ve got four more to go before I’ll reap the benefits of my efforts.

What that tells me is to keep at it. Keep trying, keep working hard, keep pushing past rejection to make myself better.

Aspiring authors, are you with me? Push up your sleeves and get some grit. Read educational books, join critique groups, and keep writing. We’ll get there 🙂