“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass knew more than a thing or two about struggle. He was raised as a slave, he taught himself to read and writer, and after many hardships, made his way up North. After many hardships, he ultimately became a free man, then spent much of his life as an ardent abolitionist who struggled to destroy slavery “root and branch.”
Struggle defined Douglass’s life — it made him who he became. Our struggles may not compare with his, but even so, the same can be true for us. The struggles we face in our writing life help shape who we are and what we do. And often that’s a good thing:
Our struggles give us golden opportunities to get our of our comfort zones. Without knotty problems to solve on the page or fighting to find an agent or publisher for our work, it’s easy to get complacent or to let discouragement knock us flat. Sometimes, it’s in the act of struggling that we realize what our work means to us.
Our struggles teach us more than our successes. Success is fine and wonderful, but we don’t learn that much from it. We generally end up learning more from the setbacks we’ve endured. They teach us patience. They teach us perseverance. They reveal the path less followed, the one that leads to greater creativity.
Our struggles make us stronger. If they don’t deflate and defeat us, if we fight through them, then the obstacles we encounter give us grit and build our commitment muscles. When we defeat an obstacle instead of letting it defeat us, we deposit that “win” in our memory bank. It becomes part of who we are—and gives us heart the next time around.
Our struggles make us more compassionate. When we struggle to achieve something that matters to us, we come to understand more deeply the struggles that other writers and other wayfarers on the road of life encounter. This creates a bond that often proves strong and enduring. We begin to see the world through others’ eyes—always a gift for a writer.
So let’s remember that struggles create opportunities, and opportunities create momentum and progress. Struggles serve us as we all write on!
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