Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sacrifice, Persistence, and Struggle

Struggle or fail. Pick any discipline, any profession, any artistic endeavor, or any career.  Without struggle there is no progress, no excellence, and no prize.  

Wilma Rudolph knew struggle.  Suffering with infantile paralysis at age four she wore a brace on her left leg and foot until she was nine. One day she decided to become a basketball player like her sister. She took off the brace in private, and struggled to walk across her room. Day after day she stood, and fell, and stood up again. One day she took the brace off for good. Not only did she walk, she ran. She joined her school’s basketball team, and then the track team. At age 20, she won three gold medals for track in the 1960 Olympics. She achieved her goal through sacrifice, persistence, and struggle.

Abraham Lincoln experienced another type of struggle:  to lead a country torn by war and prejudice. He once said, “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” He did not win every political fight, but his struggle did lead to a new era of freedom for millions of Americans.

The beloved children’s writer and illustrator Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel ) couldn’t convince publishers to accept his story And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. He submitted it 27 times and got 27 rejections. But he kept trying until he did get it published.  He struggled. He succeeded.

In today’s world, society works hard to remove every struggle in people’s lives. (Perhaps we’ve gone too far?) Like a butterfly that gains strength in its struggle to free itself from its cocoon, stories of high achievers often start with overcoming poverty, prejudice, tragedy, or physical problems.

Writers can learn (at least) two lessons from struggle. First, like in the case of Dr. Seuss’s unstoppable struggle to get published, persistence must be an artists’ closest friend. Every artist must struggle to perfect his (or her) craft, dedicate concentrated amounts of time and energy in the creative process,  and relentlessly build a platform that will enable him to bring his creation to the public. Second, since struggle is so important, it makes sense that every person reacts to its power and emotion.  Because of its power, the depiction of struggle in art, whether in music, visual arts, or writing is a key element in connecting with your audience. (Without conflict, there is no story.)

Creativity is a lonely craft. It does not achieve excellence without great effort, nor does it reward its creator without relentless sacrifice and struggle.  For those who are brave enough to throw off the leg braces that hold them back; who are willing to stand up, fall and stand up again; who are willing to learn to walk in baby steps before they can run; they are the ones who will rise above the noise of seven billion people, and be heard.

May your day be full of good words.

For information on my latest story "Takeover" please go to This short story, Takeover: A Writer’s Nightmare, is a romp through the messed-up brain of a creative writer that takes you on a bumpy joy ride with a twisted ending.