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Theresa Nichols Schuster is author of "Brittle Silver" and "We Are the Warriors" a 2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Award Finalist. She currently lives in southwest Montana where she appreciates the wonders of nature, family, friends, a bit of pottery.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Patience or Perseverance?

Some time ago I was in a coffee shop, bent over my laptop, busy working on yet another edit of my young adult novel. A person I knew wandered by and upon hearing about my current rewrite, remarked, "You really have perseverance!" I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or if it reflected a certain unwillingness to quit or give up in the face of what could be mediocre ability or skill.

This last month my journal had an interesting page heading, (to whom it would be attributed, I don't know), that read, "Patience is a skill, perseverance an art."

An interesting reflection. What is the difference between a skill and an art? Between patience and perseverance?

I envision a skill as that which can be practiced, studied, learned over time, somewhat perfected, fine tuned. Now, an art? That seems a little more complex.

Art is a mixture of gift, time, attention, inspiration, and also skill. Art can only be somewhat taught or learned; much of it is an expression of the self, different from the performing of a skill, although it can be practiced, it is unfettered, free, a gift of the muse.

So where does that leave perseverance? Is it an art or a skill or maybe both?

Patience seems to allude to an attitude toward things we cannot change, circumstances we face, often without choice. Is this where a “learned skill” is helpful and necessary, as we learn to better undertake certain tasks or situations thrust upon us?

So then, is perseverance a creative choice and a type of drivenness? Is it at times valuable or desirable? It is nice for me to think of my sticking to the process of novel writing as an art. I also hope I have developed more skill in telling an engaging story over the years. The act of setting thoughts and dreams into words, and editing and re-editing has sharpened my skills as a writer.

Is perseverance a gift? Or a curse of sorts? Hard to say. I know people I would call good writers. But many of them don't often write to be published. Are they smarter than me as to the true time and challenges of writing and being read? Are they more realistic? Or do they have other projects they'd rather pursue?

I'm not sure if the answer is obvious. But those of us engaged in writing to be read and/or long term writing projects or other consuming projects cannot but occasionally stop and wonder if our time and effort is well spent. We see many around us who stop, don't start or do other things with their time. How do we answer the riddle, "Is our time well spent? Is the art of perseverance well directed or are we pulled forward by an artistic muse that does not count the cost?"

1 comment:

  1. Patience and perseverance are both terms typically handed to us, something I don't think about having until the title is imbued and then I always wonder if I was mislabeled, like it seems you are here. "Are you sure you're not misreading my quietness or calmness for patience," I tend to question, "giving me more credit than I really deserve?" Perseverance, on the other hand, seems to imply an action that can be seen. We cannot really see a person's patience, but seeing a woman working away at a a coffee shop on "yet" another draft, is seeing response. We do not know where our action will lead, but to go anywhere, we must act. Sometimes the action will not lead to where we envision it will go. I guess we have to be awake to the possible side-effects of our actions, of being a writer.