Persistence and Perseverance: Keeping On When You’d Like to Take a Rest

December 22, 2009

Today is my 101st post in a row. I began doing this to provide my students with a model of personal/professional writing since I ask them to write appropriate teacher blog posts. I’d thought about doing it before, but I was inspired to begin because I wanted to talk about student success and share some of the things that helped me complete three degrees as an adult student. I also wanted to talk about things that teachers don’t always tell their students—the thoughts that hide behind our smiling faces. I continued writing despite having many days when I wanted to do something else because I knew I was learning things about myself and about the creative process.

It’s hard to do anything day after day, and it’s especially difficult to do something creative day after day. By definition, the creative is novel and varied, communicates new ideas, shows things from diverse perspectives. This is a heavy burden. Some days I just don’t feel very novel or varied or diverse. I am unimaginative. I have nothing new to say. Many of my careers have been creative. I’ve had to write a cooking column under deadline, make the banal fascinating as a feature writer, produce radio advertising copy in a hurry, and design clever materials for next-day printing. Some days my work felt like flying; on others, I was mired in quicksand. But I always kept working. This is good advice for just about anyone. Keep working.

Resiliency is an important quality for any student to have. If you’re resilient, you keep going despite setbacks. You bounce back from disappointments and defeats. You take responsibility for failures and learn from them. You register for another quarter even when you’d like to take a term off and do nothing. You realize that you are working toward a larger goal and you know that as you keep moving forward, you help yourself develop the skills and attitudes that will keep you on track even when you’d just as soon quit.

In The Spiritual Life, Walter Elliott wrote that perseverance is not a long race, it is many short races one after another. This blog is many short races. So far I’ve completed a hundred and one of them. School is also many short races. You will win some and lose very few, I hope. But it’s important that you keep running toward your finish line.

Write about a time when you’ve kept going despite disappointment or difficulty.

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
• Albert Einstein


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