A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
Writer = Oak
“Money grows on the tree of persistence.”—Japanese proverb
Two weeks ago, my wife and I journeyed to Pymatuning State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania to spend a week camping amidst a mélange of turning leaves, scampering critters, sun-splotched trees, and meandering streams. We woke to the sounds of twittering birds, watched dazzling sunsets over the western sky, and took pause from the cacophony of 24/7 news and the fever of a presidential campaign.
We also hiked over rickety footbridges, through palisades of deciduous trees, around the perimeter of rustic lakes, and down sinuous trails. One day, less than a quarter mile below the dam that impounds the 17,088-acre Pymatuning Reservoir, we found the tree.
It was a striking oak—one that had been grasping the bank of the Shenango River for more than 150 years (by our estimate). Its impressive constitution survived a devastating flood in 1913, endured many generations of punishing winters, and stood firmly rooted against all manner of environmental threats. It was resolute.
I was enthralled by its stature as well as its arboreal determination. Here was an organism that had weathered a plethora of challenges and an abundance of life-threatening events. Yet, for approximately a century and a half, it was staunch against natural forces determined to topple it into the river. It did what it needed to do to remain true to its “tree-ness.” Throughout its life, it bent, it shook, and it most certainly swayed, but, metaphorically speaking, it never lost sight of what it had to do to remain true to the heritage of oaks.
In my admiration of this botanical titan, I was reminded of one of the signature dynamics of authorial success—persistence. The dictionary defines “persistence” as the ability to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning. Here was a tree that had survived, indeed flourished, due to environmental persistence. As authors, our professional survival may also be due to the degree to which we embrace persistence as a regular construct of our literary sojourns.
For me, persistence is simply a matter of putting my butt in a chair, my fingers on the keyboard, and my mind in gear . . . every single day! It is a commitment to authorship that demands daily attention and daily commitment. It’s often a matter of telling my mind that if I want to be a writer I have to practice writing . . . every single day! No excuses, no apologies, no exemptions. After all, an oak tree does not survive for fifteen decades by taking “time off.” It survives because of its persistence against the elements . . . every single day!
An oak tree is the embodiment of persistence.
Consider that it’s not the actual words we commit to the page; it’s the persistence that drives them to the computer screen that matters. It’s the obligation to those words that gives them power. It’s knowing that those words were selected because they were faithfully edited, thoughtfully manipulated, carefully massaged, clearly rewritten, and patiently crafted with determination and attention. Words are merely assemblies of letters; their strength comes from the dedication of the writer who chose them, constructed them, and presented them for others to read.
Our ultimate success as purveyors of children’s literature comes from extended and sufficient preparation, extended and sufficient homework, and extended and sufficient time. The more we invest in our respective writing careers, the more we reap. On the other hand, if undisciplined, our tenure as a writer may be short. We gain that discipline by making writing a regular, normal, and persistent habit. Anything less and we may (figuratively) topple over.
Are you an oak?
To think about . . .
“There is no magic in achievement. It’s really about hard work, choices, and persistence.”
“Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.”
“A published author was once an unpublished author who didn’t quit submitting.”
“Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”
Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books. He’s also authored the book: Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published (https://amzn.to/2GWBEpW). [“This is one of the best books I’ve seen on the market for how to get started from the beginning to end.” —5-star review]