In defining the qualities writers need to succeed, persistence is often cited. Actually, though, it is beside the point.
The ability writers possess to doggedly pursue their writing doesn’t come from an abstract quality of character. It comes from love. Writers love the experience writing gives them. And they love their vision of the writing that’s mesmerizing their attention right now. But the primacy of love for writers may be easier to see in a story that mirrors it, however indirectly.
An Australian dog made minor news some months ago, after being washed from the deck of a yacht in rough seas. Shark-infested rough seas. His owners risked their own lives searching for him, but after many futile and desperate hours, they sadly returned to shore.
Meanwhile, their much-loved family dog kept dog-paddling, until he reached an island five miles away. There he lived for four months, before being found by the few people who also lived there. In time, they arranged to return him to the mainland. And his astonished family had a tearful, tail-wagging and face-licking reunion.
How did this otherwise ordinary dog manage such a feat of suvival? Was it the instinctual will to live? Was it pure luck? Maybe. What’s more likely, though, is this: here was a dog who really wanted to return to his family. They loved him, and he loved them. He had a reason to survive. And it pulled him through the ocean for five miles, and got him through four months of survivalist ingenuity.
Love allows us to do amazing things. It is stronger — in non-human and human animals, both — than anything else. By comparison, persistence is no match for, say, shark-infested rough seas.
Love, on the other hand, keeps dog-paddling, driven by the need to return to what it loves best. Whether that’s a family of doting humans. Or the all-consuming and enlivening effort of putting words on a page.