Monday, October 11, 2010

The Importance of Persistence

You can still enter the book giveaway here on Hearth Cricket until midnight on Wednesday, October 13th. For details on how to enter and to see the list of the books you’ll receive if you win, check out the Book Giveaway post from last week.

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cover I’m currently reading Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. The term “drunkard’s walk”  is

“…from a mathematical term describing random motion, such as the paths molecules follow as they fly through space, incessantly bumping, and being bumped by, their sister molecules.”

The book is interesting – and disconcerting – on several levels, but here I want to share something he says about how important persistence is to success. On page 9, Mlodinow talks about, of all things, the unpredictability of publishing. Perhaps this isn’t that surprising since he is an author, so the subject might be closer to his heart than to some. On the other hand, randomness plays a larger role in our lives than I imagined, and the idea of cause and effect is more subjective than we think. So it could just be chance.

ANYWAY. He cites several examples of books that were rejected before hitting it big. Bear with me if you've heard some of these before.

“One book in the 1950s was rejected by publishers, who responded with such comments as ‘very dull,’ ‘a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions,’ and ‘even if the work had come to light five years ago when the subject (World War II) was timely, I don’t think there would have been a chance for it.’”

The book? The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected because “it is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.”

John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by twenty-six publishers.

Dr. Seuss's first book was called And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It was rejected twenty-seven times before publication.

It’s no secret that J.K. Rowling was rejected by nine publishers before someone saw the light.

And poor John Kennedy Toole committed suicide after multiple rejections of A Confederacy of Dunces. His mother, however, persevered, and eventually it was not only published but won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and sold, oh, a couple million copies or so.

But here’s the part I like. Mlodinow goes on to say,

“There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel – or a piece of jewelry or chocolate-chip cookie – and the presence of huge stacks of that novel – or jewelry or bags of cookies – at the front of thousands of retail outlets. That’s why successful people in every field are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.”

People who don’t give up. Gives us all a little something to think about, eh?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this reminder...my persistence needs a little kick in the pants!

    Looks like an interesting book.

    ReplyDelete