Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Persistence or just plain stupidity

In the past few weeks, the challenge to define the difference between persistence and stupidity has come up on quite a few occasions. Is there a difference?

At Christmas, one of the gifts I gave my sister was a notepad for her office that said "Persistence is what you have when someone is too stupid to know when to quit". Of course, I thought this was hilarious, but had no idea it would come back to haunt me.

A few weeks after Christmas, I participated in my second half-marathon. I truly believe distance runners are a special breed. Most of the population just doesn’t get them. You can probably get the same health benefits from a number of other exercises that would not put your body through the grueling physical pain you get with pounding the pavement for multiple miles.

Now, I don’t consider myself a “runner” by any stretch of the imagination, but I will admit to enjoying the races I have participated in. This time, however, I went in with virtually no training at all, and the only way I was able to make it to the finish line was through prayer and the mantra that the run was 90% mental. Again, if I just persist, I’d come out victorious.

(In the spirit of being totally honest here, by mile 10 I was calling myself stupid and vowing never to sign up for another half-marathon).

Just this week, the persistence versus stupidity argument reared its head yet again. I was speaking to a fellow writer about the trials aspiring novelists must face without ever being certain that they will become published. It’s not easy. For years I sacrificed time with friends, watching my favorite TV shows, reading great books, and a multitude of other activities in exchange for following my dreams of becoming a published author. I was persistent.

Or, was I just stupid?

In hindsight, now that I have published a novel, I can say that the sacrifice was worth it. But when do you make that call?

If I had stopped running at mile five, when my lungs were burning, legs were aching, and eight long miles were looming ahead of me, I would not have my shiny Donald Duck medal to display, nor would I feel the sense of accomplishment that comes over me when I tell everyone I meet (yes, I’m still touting it to everyone) that I completed another half-marathon.

If I had stopped submitting query letters to agents, or pitching my book at conferences after the first ten rejection letters, I would not have books available on Amazon or (Have you pre-ordered your copy of Release Me yet? Get to it!)

Maybe I’ll just stop questioning the difference between being persistent and being stupid. Maybe there is no difference. Maybe it's just a matter of opinion.

What do you think?

For a good laugh, here’s a picture of me about five and a half miles into the half-marathon. Don't believe that smile. I was ready to collapse, but running through the Magic Kingdom gave me a great spirit boost.