Stick-To-It-Iveness: Guest Post by Lillie Ammann

by Joanna on May 13, 2009

When Joanna suggested three topics for a guest post—audacity, tenacity, and community—I knew there was only one possible subject for me. I don’t claim to know much about audacity or community, but I’m an expert on tenacity.

My mother called it stick-to-it-iveness. Writers who want someone besides themselves and their families to read their work must have plenty of stick-to-it-iveness.

We have to stick to it when our minds are as blank as the page on the screen.

We have to stick to it when we find the words, then review them and wonder why anyone would read such junk.

We have to stick to it when we revise, rewrite, edit, and proofread to produce a finished piece.

We have to stick to it when we are rejected over and over again.

We have to stick to it when we are finally accepted and required to revise and edit once more.

We have to stick to it when our work is published and reviewers or readers criticize it.

We have to stick to it when we repeat the cycle with a new project.

How do we keep on keeping on when an editor tells us our baby is ugly? When we learn the slim odds of ever being published? When a reviewer tells readers not to waste their money on our work?

We each have to develop our own tenacity, our own stick-to-it-iveness. Here are a few things that have helped me.

  • Sheer stubbornness: determination that I’m not going to let them (a blank page and blank mind, editors, readers, reviewers, whoever/whatever is holding me back) win. If I can’t defeat them, I’ll just outlast them.
  • Knowledge: knowing that the average romance writer writes seven manuscripts in seven years before making a sale helps me to realize that I’m not a total failure if I’m not published in a year or two.
  • Community:fellow writers, blogging friends, and loved ones who believe in me encourage me to keep going when I’m discouraged.
  • Commitment: love of writing and the need to share my ideas motivate me to keep writing regardless of circumstances and the opinions of other people.

If you’re a writer—whether you write blog posts, magazine articles, business documents, or stories—you will need a lot of stick-to-it-iveness. Grab hold of your dreams, hold on tight, and never give up!

****

Lillie AmmannLillie Ammann, a freelance writer and editor, specializes in working with self-publishing authors.

She blogs at A Writers’ Words, An Editor’s Eye and has published two novels, most recently the romantic mystery Dream or Destiny. Lillie and her husband of more than four decades live in San Antonio, Texas.

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--Deb 05.13.09 at 1:31 pm

Great post, Lillie. We’re such an Instant Gratification society, we tend to forget that some things NEED to be worked for!

-Debs last blog post..Putting Together the Pieces

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome 05.13.09 at 1:37 pm

I was never very good at stick-to-it-iveness until I got partway into my first novel - suddenly I wanted to continue the project until the end (which since I’m still in the multiple-rejection part) is still a long way away.

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Stop Self-Destructing Your Dreams

Andrew 05.13.09 at 1:49 pm

Lillie,

That sounds like very sound advice.

How we respond when things are going well is all well and good, but it’s often how we respond when the chips are down that determines the level of achievement which we realize in any area of life - writing included as you so well point out.

Andrews last blog post..Animal testing - a positive EU proposal to eliminate unnecessary suffering

Matt Keegan 05.13.09 at 3:01 pm

Sound advice, Lillie! The amount of persistence you must have as a freelance writer can be impossible to measure before you set out. Once you start, you realize that so much of what we do requires tenacity, a trait that comes about over time.

Never give up, never give in!

Matt Keegans last blog post..Ford Raises $1.4 Billion Via Stock Offering

Lillie Ammann 05.13.09 at 8:09 pm

Deb,

Writers who fall into the Instant Gratification mindset so common in today’s society aren’t likely to become published writers. I wonder how many people with talent never realize their potential because they don’t stick with it.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.13.09 at 8:10 pm

Alex,

Congratulations on reaching the multiple-rejection phase of your novel and continuing to stick with it. Let us know when you reach the accepted stage!

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.13.09 at 8:13 pm

Andrew,

You make an excellent point—how we respond when the chips are down really determines our degree of success. And regardless of how successful we are or are not by the world’s standards, we achieve a great deal in developing our own characters when we persist.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Brad Shorr 05.13.09 at 9:11 pm

Lillie, You definitely have the right attitude for a romance writer. There may not be anything romantic about persistence, but you have to have it to get anywhere. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from Calvin Coolidge.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Brad Shorrs last blog post..How to Succeed on LinkedIn in 100 Easy Pages

Lillie Ammann 05.13.09 at 9:13 pm

Matt,

You’re right that we have no idea when we start out how much tenacity we will need. I like your observation that tenacity can grow over time.

It’s like Corrie Ten Boom as a young girl asking her father if she had enough faith. Her father explained that he didn’t give her money until he sent her to the store to buy something. In the same way, God doesn’t give us the faith we need until we need it. Perhaps tenacity is the same, we don’t develop it until we really need it.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.13.09 at 9:23 pm

Brad,

I love that quote from Calvin Coolidge, also. Thanks for sharing it.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Joanna 05.13.09 at 10:02 pm

Lillie, thanks again for writing this post. It captures so well what you embody in the way you go about your work and your writing. There’s much to be learned by watching how you do things as well as what you write about them. That congruence between words and actions is very powerful.

Lillie Ammann 05.13.09 at 10:41 pm

Thank you, Joanna, for the opportunity to guest post and for your kind words.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Karen Swim 05.14.09 at 12:05 am

Lillie, I felt my grip tighten on my dream as I read your words. Your mother was a wise woman and I am so glad that she taught you tenacity. Without it we would not have Dream or Destiny and the works to follow! Thank you so much for the inspiring reminder to put our shoulder to the grind and not let go.

Karen Swims last blog post..Down the Rabbit Hole and into the Archives

Julie - Inspired to Write 05.14.09 at 12:29 am

This is very helpful and good for motivation and inspiration. I know I have had the case of ‘must-give-up-too-hard-iveness’ many times and my stubbornness and determination do help!! But, it is QUITE the journey to walk on as a writer!

Julie - Inspired to Writes last blog post..Who is your folk hero?

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 3:04 am

Karen,

Thank you for your encouragement for the works to follow Dream or Destiny! Progress on the next book is slow, so the encouragement comes at a good time.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

J.D. Meier 05.14.09 at 3:04 am

I really like your point on knowledge.

J.D. Meiers last blog post..Changing Focus

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 3:05 am

Julie,

I think we can all relate to ‘must-give-up-too-hard-iveness’ but are glad you haven’t totally succumbed. You are so right about the writing journey.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 3:19 am

J.D.,

It’s important to know the industry and market. It’s easy to think that other people have it easier than we do or are more successful than we are, when the odds of getting published are very small for all of us. The more we write and the longer we work at it, the better the odds.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Naoko 05.14.09 at 8:14 am

Thank you for the timely reminder, Lillie. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me (am in the midst of writing a blog post about disillusionment, so this is just perfect!).

Beatriz 05.14.09 at 8:19 am

This is very good advice. It certainly takes tenacity to be successful in almost anything!

Thank you!

Beatrizs last blog post..Death 1-5

wilson 05.14.09 at 9:21 am

WoW, I didn’t expect that I would learn a new word, when I read your post, Lillie. This ’stick-to-it-iveness’ is absolutely a cool definition and would you might I use it on my posts? (Nah, just kidding, as I don’t want to be accused as the ‘Copycat’! lol) By the way, bravo, Lillie!

wilsons last blog post..For The Health’s Sake, You Should Stop Eating the Hot Breads Fresh Out of the Oven!

Robert Hruzek 05.14.09 at 11:24 am

I can’t think of anyone who embodies the concept better’n you, Lillie. You have been, and remain, and inspiration for little ol’ me. And one day, when I have that big, tall stack of rejections all my own, I’ll remember this conversation! :-)

My hat’s off to ya!

Janice Cartier 05.14.09 at 3:16 pm

Lillie,
I love your four pillars : “Sheer Stubbornness”, “Knowledge”, “Community”, and “Commitment”.

I have found those to be true in the art world as well. It’s reassuring to see them written about here. “stick- to- it- ness”…like straightening one’s spine , some great guest posts Joanna. ;-)

Brad,
That is one of MY favorite quotes too. I had forgotten that it came from Calvin Coolidge ( it’s going back in my notebook right now ;-) )

Janice Cartiers last blog post..Ladders On The Right Wall

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 5:23 pm

Naoko,

I’m glad this was timely for you. Isn’t it lovely how often we find just the words we need to hear at just the right time?

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 5:24 pm

Beatriz,

You’re right—tenacity applies to just about any endeavor, not just writing.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 5:25 pm

wilson,

You’re welcome to use the word, as long as you say Lillie’s mother made it up. :-) Thanks for the kudos.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 5:25 pm

Robert,

Thank you. I look forward to the day when you can show us a big stack of rejections!

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Lillie Ammann 05.14.09 at 5:27 pm

Janice,

I imagine the art world is a lot like writing—the blank canvas, rejection and rejection … yes, a lot in common.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Karen Chaffee 05.15.09 at 12:41 am

Lillie, what sage advice to any writer, or anybody at all, for that matter. If we “quit,” how will we ever know how close to reaching a goal we might have been?

Karen

Lillie Ammann 05.15.09 at 1:40 am

Karen,

Your point is excellent and reminds me of a supposedly true story. A miner bought a gold mine for almost nothing because the original owner had given up after being unsuccessful in finding gold after digging for years. The new owner found a huge lode of gold just a few feet from where the original owner gave up. If only the original owner had kept going just a little longer.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Guest Post at Confident Writing

Joanna 05.15.09 at 6:54 am

@Janice, they’ve done me proud, haven’t they? ;-)

@Karen and @Lillie - what a good point and interesting question. This was the thing I found most frustrating point about Seth Godin’s ‘The Dip’ - he talks about those who go through the dips and don’t quit, getting to success, but also that there are some things you should walk away from, to focus on the things you’re going to be really brilliant at. But he doesn’t explain how you know the difference! I’m not sure if you’ve read the book Lillie, or have any thoughts on the question?

Lillie Ammann 05.15.09 at 7:45 am

Joanna,

I haven’t read The Dip, but I just added it to my TBR list.

The criterion I’ve used in determining when to persevere and when to walk away has been simply how I feel about something over time. I can get discouraged temporarily, but if I really believe in something, I won’t give up. But if I can no longer get excited about a project, or even dread working on it, I know it’s time to quit.

A few years ago, I was in a network marketing business that I loved at first. However, after a series of changes in the program and in the people I worked with, it became a real chore rather than a pleasure to work the business. So even though I was having a fair degree of success, I gave it up. I’m not willing to be miserable to make money.

However, if the changes hadn’t occurred, I would probably still be working that business and loving it, whether or not it was a huge financial success.

That’s very subjective, I know, but it’s more important to me to be happy in what I’m doing than it is to achieve success in it. Ideally, of course, I’d like to do both. :-)

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Writer’s Worth Day

Paul 05.15.09 at 12:43 pm

Hi Lillie,

I loved reading this post and got so much from it [and from the comments it provoked too!].

As writers, there are countless reasons for us to stop and sometimes the only way for us to keep going is to focus on just what you describe - our stubborness, our tenacity, our ‘Stick-To-It-Iveness’ :)

Thank you for finding such a clear and compelling way to communicate the fact that there are also countless reasons for us to continue [countless because the sum of perfect reasons for each individual to keep going adds up to a whole lot of reasons!].

Thank you for sticking to it yourself and helping this message to be understood, by me and so many others as well :)

Best Regards

Paul

Pauls last blog post..Manifesto for a Career Coach

Joanna 05.16.09 at 4:59 pm

Lillie thanks for that - your answer makes perfect sense to me :-)

Paul very sorry, you got stuck in the spam filter for some reason. Must be too many smileys :-)

Lillie Ammann 05.16.09 at 10:12 pm

Paul,

I’m glad you found the post helpful. Focusing on all the reasons our goal is important helps us stick to it as well. The comments, including yours, have certainly added a great deal to my original post. That’s one of the wonderful things about blogging.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Armed Forces Day 2009

Lillie Ammann 05.16.09 at 10:12 pm

Joanna,

I’m glad my answer made sense. Some things just can’t be quantified and must be subjective.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Armed Forces Day 2009

Sean McRoy 05.29.09 at 4:48 am

“Stick-to-it-iveness” really applies to almost all aspects of life. Anywhere from cleaning the dishes after breakfast all the way to finishing all the items on your to-do list for the day, regardless of how much you don’t want to. Thank you once again for being a wonderful inspiration to us all.

I particularly like, “Grab hold of your dreams, hold on tight, and never give up!”

Sean McRoys last blog post..Employer Resume

Lillie Ammann 05.29.09 at 5:11 am

Excuse if this is a duplicate comment. The first seems to have disappeared into cyberspace.

Thank you, Sean. You are right that we need stick-to-it-iveness in all areas of life, not just writing.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Lillie’s Q&A at Ask Wendy

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