“That which we persist in doing becomes easier — not that the nature of the
task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ever see one of those movies where there’s a huge ball and people do the polka, circling round and round until you’re almost dizzy from watching them? The music is always light and lilting — it seems to float airily over the dancers. Well, maybe someone should compose a “Persistence Polka,” — a cheerful, can-do tune that would shift our view of the word “persistence” from an image of the Volga boatmen, straining and groaning at their oars, to one that’s more uplifting.
Persistence isn’t just about struggle and relentless practice, it’s also about grace and mastery — and the satisfaction they bring. This is what struck me when I read a story about Indi Cowie, a high-school student who’s been called the most advanced female soccer “freestyler” in the world. “She’s just a phenomenal blend of technique and determination,” observed one coach.
Basically, Indi does amazing stunts with a soccer ball. Inspired by an encounter with the freestyle world champion (now there’s a snappy title!), Indi started teaching herself a complex trick called “Around the World” — circling a foot around the ball while juggling it. She recalls: “I worked on that for about a month, and then one day, I finally landed it. That moment was so satisfying that I committed to becoming the best I could be at freestyle.”
What I love about this story is Indi’s attitude. Over a month, she must have practiced this stunt thousands of times before she nailed it. Now that’s persistence! I also love the enjoyment the feisty teen experienced after finally mastering something that she was really keen to conquer.
When we’re writing, it’s easy to become frustrated if things aren’t going well and to give into discouragement instead of going at it again — and again. One way to bypass frustration is to remember the moments of ease and pleasure we also experience. These are the fruits of mastery — the increased ability that comes from practice. Write on!