June 30, 2013


Now that summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere and I no longer have the grind of a “regular” job (though I am still teaching – just under a different paradigm), my wife, daughter and I have been watching movies.
Not the summer blockbusters, but rewatching movies from our family collection. That includes RUNAWAY BRIDE. (I should note here that my wife and daughter are also writers – my son is more of a DOer, but that’s a different story.) You’ve probably seen it at some point, but in it Richard Gere plays a columnist for USA TODAY whose purpose is to “push the envelope” but who has recently mostly directed bitter diatribes at the opposite sex. One diatribe is directed at a hardware store clerk played my Julia Roberts – and Gere loses his job when Roberts threatens to sue for libel.
Among other things, we typically note that we own an awful lot of movies that center on writers: ALEX AND EMMA, NORTHANGER ABBEY, STRANGER THAN FICTION, SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, BACK TO THE FUTURE, FINDING FORRESTER, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES,  THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, 27 DRESSES, YOU’VE GOT MAIL, LETTERS TO JULIET, and THE PROPOSAL (to name some of them). I’ve also noticed that persistence is typically one of the messages that accompany the writer’s life. While that isn’t usually the main point of the movie, it always finds its way in there.
Despite being hammered with that message – and hammering it home to the children I teach at summer school in my Writing To Get Published class – I’ve forgotten it. In fact, the whole idea of persistence is one that’s drifted entirely off my radar lately.
It’s not that “life” hasn’t demonstrated time and again that what I NEED to do is the best job that I can while still pursuing the things I want. The job I’ve had for the past three years is a case to point: I’d wanted to be a school counselor since I decided to get my teaching license so that I could get into the counselor program. That was in 1978 and 33 years later, I finally sat my butt in my own office chair, a full-time high school counselor. *whew*
From my writing life: I started writing (in cursive with a pencil) in 1969, moving eventually to learning to use a manual typewriter, then an old electric, then an electronic typewriter, an Apple II, and from there to my current Toshiba laptop. I seriously started submitting in 1990 and in 1993, saw the publication of my first “professional sale” in a magazine named HiCall. Since then, I’ve fired off 820 submissions with 45 manuscripts seeing publication or production. A year ago, I finally got an agent.
Even in high school and college God (or “life” if you prefer) was busy teaching me this lesson: after getting my teaching degree in 1981, I didn’t get a permanent teaching job until 1987 (not for lack of trying!). In high school, I didn’t make the top choir my junior year (even though boys were supposedly badly needed) and had to wait until my senior year. I was passed over for promotion to “stocking” by a friend of mine – who I helped get the job as a bagboy and didn’t move up to stock until I moved stores. I applied for countless jobs as youth director – even in my own church – and was repeatedly thanked for my time and sent packing. After a year-long substitute teaching job at the high school I graduated from, I was told that “it’s too bad you’re not a woman” and let go at the end of the year.
Again in my writing life: my agent has been shopping a manuscript that won me a spot on Red Fox’s roster a year ago with nothing to show for it but polite rejections. Another manuscript resides in the “we’d like to look at it more closely” pile at BAEN BOOKS.
Persistence. Patience.
Even the Bible advises me with verses I KNOW I’ve read…but have forgotten:
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way.” Psalm 37:7
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Galatians 5:22
“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
“And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.” Hebrews 6:15
And finally:
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.” James 5:7
So Hollywood, Folksy Aphorisms, Life, and God teach patience.
In the play, LIFE OF GALILEO by Bertolt Brecht (it was  made into a movie I saw and showed hundreds of times as a science teacher) that centers on writing, the scientist Galileo challenges not only the Church, but ALL current science when he discovers that the Sun is the center of the Solar System, not Earth. He is arrested, endures, recants, then (according to Scientism), recants his recantation, but regrets his decision at the end of his life:
“As a scientist, I had a unique opportunity. In my time astronomy reached the market
place. Under these very special circumstances, one man's steadfastness might
have had tremendous repercussions. If I had held out, scientists might have
developed something like the physicians' Hippocratic oath, the vow to use
their knowledge only for the good of mankind. As things stand now, the best
we can hope for is a generation of inventive dwarfs who can be hired for any

Patience then is not only a virtue -- it's part of science, it's taught in Scripture, and hundreds of writers urge it and practice it.

How is it then that I forget it so easily?

References: *Said to have originated in the PSYCHOMACHIA, a poem by the Roman poet Prudentius  (aka Aurelius Prudentius Clemens) around 392 AD; http://buehnenkunst.ohost.de/auditions_coming_up_files/Life%20of%20Galileo%20by%20Brecht.pdf

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