“I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.”
Gordon Lish, editor of Raymond Carver
A show-stopper of a quote, isn’t it? When I came across this statement by Gordon Lish, a celebrated and storied editor, I knew it was one worth sharing. So often, we attach tons of importance to that elusive and seemingly magical word, “talent” and forget all the other ingredients needed to craft a satisfying and successful writing life. With this in mind, let’s take a look at Gordon’s list — as defined by my beloved old The New Century Dictionary:
Perseverance: “The act or quality of persevering; steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc. (as ‘Great works are performed, not by strength, but perseverance,’ Johnson’s Rasselas).”
Application: “The act of applying, a bringing to bear, assiduous effort or attention.”
Industry: “Assiduous activity at any work or task; diligence; busy application; also, systematic work or labor; productive labor.”
Assiduity: “The quality of being assiduous; constant application; pl, devoted or solicitous attentions.”
Will, will, will: “Purpose or determination, often hearty determination (as, to have the will to succeed; where there’s a will, there’s a way); also, the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of choosing one’s own actions; also, to determine, decide, or ordain, as by act of will.”
Desire, desire, desire: To wish or long for; crave; want; also to need or require.
Wow! When you add all these up, it’s quite a list, isn’t it? And yet all of them are within our power, within our grasp. Every day, no matter how thorny the writing task before us, we can show “steady persistence in a course of action,” as we keep pushing forward, word by word. We can bring “constant application,” and “devoted attention” to our work. We can attack the page with “diligence,” “busy application,” and “systematic work or labor.” And we can bring generous doses of will, will, will to our work — the “hearty determination,” and “deliberate action” to move forward with purpose and intention.
And when all these wonderfully attainable qualities: steady persistence, devoted attention, systematic labor, and hearty determination are animated by desire, desire, desire — the longing and craving to accomplish what lies at hand — there’s nothing we can’t do, is there? We’ll be unstoppable! So let’s write on!