Tag Archives: perseverance

Progeny Pride: my son the blogging designer

Progeny: n. children, descendants, offspring

Pride:  n. the quality or state of being proud, holding in high esteem.

My son just put up his second essay at Huffington Post (in the Style section) and he’s a damn fine writer, that boy is. Better than I was at his age, thatsa fo’ sure.  So much talent in one package… but then, the other ingredient he has in spades is perseverance (perennial favorite issue for me – just check the tag cloud for samples).

His first post was about how the recession could provide new opportunities for connection. His topic today is slow living… from slow food to slow blogging to slow sex.

As a person without a partner, I can’t speak much about slow sex these days. But I will be looking into slow blogging – one of these days.

Slow blogging theory says that if it’s worth saying, it’s worth taking the time to say it well – to think it through, to explore the nooks and crannies of the question. It says:

Slow Blogging is a willingness to remain silent amid the daily outrages and ecstasies that fill nothing more than single moments in time, switching between banality, crushing heartbreak and end-of-the-world psychotic glee in the mere space between headlines. The thing you wished you said in the moment last week can be said next month, or next year, and you’ll only look all the smarter.

Dang it.  (Conservatively) 75% of my posts would probably have been better left unwritten.

But quality was never my goal. The purpose of this blog was to create a daily writing practice – quantity – to crank out words in the hopes that with practice, quality would be more frequent.

There’s an old Yiddish story about a tailor who was a shoddy workman, but cheap. When customers would complain about a jacket he’d just made, he’d say, “Never mind the quality, feel the width.” (Later it was the title of a 1970s British sitcom.)

This is my 280th post since I started in April.   Feel the width!

Practice, Persevere, Purge: wisdom from Ira Glass

So you want to be a writer? Storyteller? Screen or radio writer?

Ira Glass of This American Life (a masterful collector of uniquely gripping radio stories -now also on TV) has great advice for you.  Boiled down, it amounts to three of my favorite p-words:

  • Practice (write or record a lot of crap, and maybe occasionally some good stuff).
  • Persevere (do it some more, and then some more and then more after that).
  • Purge (you’ll produce lots of crap and will need to let most of it go).

But he says this with much more pizzazz than I do, so you must watch these four videos on You-Tube.  REALLY. They’re only five minutes each and packed with wisdom.

Start here – #1: Building blocks of the story. The power of the anecdote. Raising questions and then answering them. Reflecting on the point. Every preacher or public speaker should listen to this one.

Then here #2  Finding a decent story – do lots of work then ruthlessly purge the crap.

Then here #3:  How your work almost always, for YEARS, falls short of your taste, your vision.  But do it anyway. A lot. Persevere. 

And finally #4  Two common pitfalls.

Perseverance and public speaking: Arianna Huffington edition

Today is Arianna Huffington‘s 58th birthday – I know this thanks to Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac, which I get in email form every day.

You can read his post here, but I found two parts of her story especially compelling because they were all about having a goal and persevering despite obstacles. Ath this point in time she is an incredibly skillful public speaker – articulate, witty and quick.

Background: she’s Greek, born in Athens.

One day she saw in a magazine a picture of Cambridge University, and she decided that she wanted to go to school there. Many of her friends and family members ridiculed her, but her mother strongly encouraged her daughter, looked for a scholarship that she could apply for, found cheap airline tickets from Athens to London, and took the teenage Arianna for a visit to the campus. It rained the whole time, and they didn’t get to meet with any school officials, but she imagined herself going to school there. A few years later, she applied and was granted a scholarship.

In college she joined the debating team, a rather uncommon extracurricular activity for a young woman at Cambridge at that time. At first, she wasn’t very skilled, and years later said, “Sometimes I was called to speak after midnight because I was so bad.” But she prepared for each debate as if she were the featured speaker and she began to improve—so much so that in her final year at Cambridge, she was voted president of the debating society. She was the first non-British citizen to earn this position and only the third woman in the school’s history.

Perseverance #4 – a motivational parable

* At the annual sales meeting of a large corporation, the motivational speaker talked about the importance of persevering, despite obstacles.

He asked the crowd, “Did the Wright brothers ever quit?”

“NO!” the crowd answered.

“Did Helen Keller ever quit?”

“NO!” the crowd answered.

“Did Lance Armstrong ever quit?”

“NO!” they yelled, really getting into it.

“Did Thorndike McKester ever quit?”

The crowd fell silent. Finally one man near the front raised his hand and asked, “Who is Thorndike McKester?? We’ve never heard of him.”

The speaker snapped back, “Of course you’ve never heard of him; that’s because he quit!”

OK. That’s a silly story, which actually neglects the most important point. We don’t persevere to become well known; we persevere to accomplish something that is important to us.

Don’t expect you’ll be famous if you keep on keeping on – unless your goal is merely to become famous – which I say is a pity.

* Story adapted from one in the current Toastmasters Magazine

Other tales of perseverance here, here, here, here, and here.

Potting and perseverance

I have two large ceramic pots flanking the steps to my front door. A month ago my ex extricated the two strappy plants that had filled the pots with their roots over the past four years.

Since the pots had smaller openings than the main body, this was not a simple matter of yanking the plants out or overturning the pots to dump them out. It required surgery. Careful hacking and lots of patience.  I would have given up and tossed everything.  But that’s not my ex’s nature. He perseveres.

So then I had two empy pots.   They sat there for a couple of weeks while I recovered from watching my ex work so hard.

Eventually I bought some fresh potting soil and some new plants.  But then it got really hot – and plants don’t like being transplanted when it’s really hot. I’m not keen on working in the heat either.

Finally the stars were in alignment and the weather had cooled. Time to piss or pot.

The potting soil came out of the bags as dry as dust. It took a couple of hours to get it properly mixed and rehydrated. I mixed it in a giant plastic laundry tub with intermittent doses of water,  hydrophilic plastic bits,  and Osmocote timed release fertilizer.

I got filthy, sweaty, and impatient. This took WAY longer than I had expected. And it took way more potting mix too, because once the water had been absorbed the dirt volume shrank by about half and the pots turned out to be bottomless. I wanted to quit and do something fun, like cleaning toilets.  As I’ve said before, perseverance is a virtue I’m still seeking. (In fact this is my fourth post on perseverance – at least I persevere talking about perseverance!)

But I finished the job. The plants still look puny and pathetic, but my virtue is restored.

Perseverance #3

I went for a walk along the Salmon Creek trail this morning. In the month since I was last there Mother Nature has been hard at work. She hath made the plants to grow tall, the trees to leaf out, the creek to rise to new heights and the beavers to get very busy.

The creek conservation team had planted a slew of baby trees along the streambed to improve habitat for fish, carefully encasing each one in a plastic sleeve because the beavers were chewing them down as fast as they could plant them.

The beavers have obviously refused to take NO for an answer. The heck with saplings, they’re going after the big guys. As you can see, they’ve felled quite a few and are chomping away on a really big one (nearly 2 feet across, though it’s hard to tell in the picture) like it was nothing.

This is perseverance. Which I also wrote about here.

Persistence: like poison ivy?

Persist: to be obstinately repetitious, insistent, or tenacious in some activity, and
Persistent: refusing to give up, enduring

from Latin persistere to take a stand, stand firm

Persistence, by definition, is quite similar to perseverance. However, perseverance has a noble quality. Joe, who rescued me from a weed jungle a couple of days ago – he’s now my role model for perseverance.

Persistence is more like something that won’t go away, even when you everything in your power to eradicate it. Poison ivy. AIDs. Hunger. Bronchitis. A pesky toddler who wants you buy candy, wants you to buy candy, wants you to buy candy, and throws a hissy fit if you leave the store without caving.

At first I admired Hillary Clinton for persevering. But in the last couple of months she moved over into the persistence category. Even in exiting she persists! She could have conceded graciously Tuesday night, but no. And now that she says she will, she says she’ll do it on SATURDAY.

She is her own worst enemy!

Perseverance #2

Perseverance – continuing resolutely despite obstacles, opposition, importunity. Tenacity. From the Latin perseverare: per- through + severus severe

Twice a year, spring and fall, I call in the troops because my yard is in a state of emergency. Our fertile soil has produced more plant material than I can handle. Fecundity, they call it. In the spring it’s the unwanted – weeds; in the fall it’s the remains of plants I wanted – dead perennials, leaves, nuts, twigs.

Raul has been my main man for about fifteen years. He used to come with his two cousins. Now he’s the big boss and he sends three guys who whip thru the cleanup in a few hours laughing and singing.

I usually work with them, though not at their pace. They’re workers, not plant people, and I want to make sure they don’t mistake one of my babies for a weed.

But yesterday Raul’s crew was busy elsewhere and he just sent José. (“Call me Joe,” he said.). My heart sunk. The yard has never been more overgrown and I get one guy?

My back yard, where he started, is much worse than the front and I could tell that Joe was somewhat alarmed by the task ahead. I told him I wouldn’t be able to help because of my pulled muscle and asked if he wanted to send for reinforcements

He just shrugged and struck his hoe into the dirt. “I can do,” he said.

And he did. Section by section, hoeful by hoeful. Perseverance in action.

He worked for nine hours with only a lunch break. He pruned back a hedge and transplanted a rose too. In nine hours he transformed my yard from a jungle into a place of order.

Sure, there are still pockets where more work will be needed, but this just teaches me once again that no task is impossible if I would just hack away at it a little at a time, and again and again and again.

Once I set my priorities…

Perseverance #1

Perseverance: continuing resolutely despite obstacles, opposition, importunity. Tenacity.
From the Latin perseverare: per- through + severus severe

Some topics deserve more than one take. Like perseverance. Since it is my Achilles heel I’ll probably need more than one go at it.

Perseverance is what gets things done in this world.  I believe it’s one of the world’s Seven Virtues.

In her memoir, Opposite of Fate, Amy Tan describes what happened after the wildly successful Joy Luck Club was published. All her writer friends began warning her of the Horrors of the Second Book, and how she might as well just toss it now because it would get lousy reviews when compared to her First Book, the Best-Seller.

Despite the stress and various physical ailments she kept writing – beginning not one Second Book but about five of them. She’d write between 30 and 70 pages before realizing she’d hit a dead end, so she’d begin a new and different book. Over and over. Finally she got a character she liked and wrote 100 pages… but then she realized the real story began on page 98 so she tossed all but the last two. This happened more than once.

Then she developed a devastating case of Lyme disease, which went undiagnosed for months and months, causing memory loss, headaches, fevers, pains, you name it. Her mother got Alzheimer’s and died. Through all this she kept on writing.

What is MY problem?

I wimp out so fast – at the littlest bump in the path. If it’s too hard, too undefined, too remote, forget it. I’ve got more immediate things to do.   Write a book?

I suddenly remembered a dentist appointment.

Was that a dust bunny under the bed? I’d better vacuum.

Wouldn’t the bathroom look better with yellow towels? They’re on sale at Macy’s…