What if your ultimate goal was to write a novel? You’d work towards it. You’d sit, edit, re-write and scratch the whole thing and start over and do it again. You’d find an editor and a publisher and hope like crazy that you were good enough.
Once your book published, you’d have to hear comments on it; good or bad, the critics and the people would let loose on your dreams. Opinions would rain down on your hard work and you would likely be frustrated. If you had poured your heart into a novel, and critic from The New York Times wrote a review that included:
“They are no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population… his literary skill is, of course, superior, but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful.”
How would you feel? Sad? Defeated? Impatient at your lack of success? Probably. But that quote up there didn’t stop Mark Twain. That review was published in 1885, after the release of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The book was banned due to swear words and sad words, taken from schools and libraries due to “indecency” and finally, one day, Ernest Hemingway put his stamp of approval on it by saying “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. …All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
Too bad it took decades to see that success from what Twain surely felt was a failure – at least publicly.
In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby. While he wrote this novel, Fitzgerald was convinced he was penning the item that would launch him into literary stardom. He told his editor this novel was a “consciously artistic achievement.” Upon publication, the novel was received with little fanfare and L.P. Hartley wrote in The Saturday Review,
“Mr. Scott Fitzgerald deserves a good shaking. Here is an unmistakable talent unashamed of making itself a motley to the view. The Great Gatsby is an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.”
Only after Fitzgerald’s death in 1940 was the novel recognized as an important piece of Americana. It has since been adapted into six full-length movies, a South Korean TV drama adaptation, an homage in season two of Californication, an operatic treatment, at least seven books, at least three stage adaptations and placed in every high school student’s hands in America.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Likely because these authors, and more from this list, were VERY impatient at their lack of success. I imagine, in fact, they were defensive and sad and a bit disheartened by the critics who told them they weren’t good enough, their work wasn’t great. It probably took a great deal of endurance and fortitude to continue to write after these “flopped” – and ironically, became two hallmarks of Great American Literature after their authors had long passed.
Maybe that’s a bit what our hopes are like, but on a smaller scale. Sometimes I look back and I remember a dream or a goal I had, I see the spot where I gave up trying or was hindered or criticized, and I see myself shrinking away bit by bit. What if we just kept writing? I bet we’ll see results eventually. It’s what we were promised in Galations 6:9: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
My dad’s favorite quote is from Teddy Roosevelt – it begins “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…” When I started my job, my dad highlighted this and emailed it to me. He doesn’t know, but I printed it and it’s tacked to the wall behind my computer – within eyesight, so on bad days I look at it and make my mantra ‘it is not the critic who counts, it is not the critic who counts.’ And it’s not. I count, and Jesus counts.
I used to think if we just persevered through whatever, it meant putting a smile on your face and working harder. Now I know, perseverance is endurance physically, emotionally and spiritually. Perseverance produces hope and (eventually) success.
And if you’ve not read either of those novels, get on it – you’re missing something great.
See you tomorrow.
Today is day twelve of my 31 days of patience series. For all posts in the series,click here.