The art of perseverance

There’s one thing you need to learn pretty quickly as a writer – perseverance. Whether for the thought processes that go into making a story, the actual bum-on-seat work or the many months between manuscript submission to notification from a publisher. Then you either pick up the pieces and start another re-write or toast the beginnings of a brand new book.

Not that it’s an easy thing, this perseverance game!

One of my survival tactics is to read an extract from the biography of  Katsushika Hokusai, brilliant artist and Japanese master of the ukiyo-e, the woodcut print. You would’ve seen copies of his most famous works from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji – they’ve featured in advertisements and fabric designs. Hokusai was born in Edo (Tokyo) in 1760 and died at the age of 88, in 1849.

Japanese woodcut printmaking is a labourious, time-consuming procedure of carving in stages into a cherry wood board before printing and reprinting on the same piece of paper – yes, you do require patience.

Hokusai was a man obsessed with printmaking. He even took the art name of Gakyo-rojin at one stage which translates old man mad with painting. Which makes his attitude to perseverance all that more remarkable.

This is what he wrote in his autobiography, probably with tongue planted in cheek as he had a little dig at himself:

From the age of five I have had a mania for sketching the forms of things. From about the age of fifty I produced a number of designs, yet of all I drew prior to the age of seventy there is truly nothing of great note. At the age of seventy-two I finally apprehended something of the true quality of birds, animals, insects, fish and of the vital nature of grasses and trees. Therefore, at eighty I shall have made some progress, at ninety I shall have penetrated even further the deeper meaning of things, at one hundred I shall have become truly marvelous, and at one hundred and ten, each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own. I only beg that gentlemen of sufficiently long life take care to note the truth of my words.

You can see how this puts my obsession with writing into a much clearer perspective. Attitude is all important. Like everyone else I go through the frustrations of rejections. But it is true, persevere with re-writing and submitting and eventually they stop being one-line or one paragraph dismissals. Instead, they return with letters suggesting possible problems or an editor’s positive encouragement.

Not that I’d ever give up doing what I love most!

Here’s a picture of one of Hokusai’s woodprints. Enjoy.

The Great Wave at Kanagawa

6 thoughts on “The art of perseverance

  1. It certainly is an art, isn’t it? The waiting game has to be one of the hardest parts of this industry, but at least to distract ourselves we just keep on writing, and that can only ever be a good thing!


  2. This has come at a perfect time, Sheryl. I was only today bemoaning to my nephew (20 something) that a boy of 9 has been published and it took me almost … well a lot longer ….LOL
    I feel so much better after reading your thoughts. What a wise man.
    A few years ago I wrote a poem about that very wave… love it too. Thank you so much for sharing this.


  3. Perseverance or perfection? I think both! One leads to the other, maybe? As in – when you attain perfection (whatever level that means for individuals) it puts the backbone into perserverance???
    And yes, agree about Leonardo – wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall of the Sistine Chapel way back then?


  4. Fascinating Sheryl. Perseverance or perfection? Am pleased to discover I’m not the only person obssessed with my ‘art’. Although I did know that already.
    I discovered when research ‘Letters to Leonardo’ that Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t consider any of his paintings truly finished – and in fact he didn’t hand over many pieces he was commissioned to do for this reason. People thought he was unreliable, but I think he was a perfectionist truly obsessed with his art:-)

    Loved The Great Wave too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.