By Lisa Kelley @LisaKelleyWrite
Waiting to be published can be daunting as well as disappointing. I closed out 2022 empty. I had semi-finaled in a writing contest but didn’t progress. One judge suggested I shouldn’t have made it to the semi-finals. I had a manuscript rejected, and I’d finished my fifth novel only to discover, after one of those hard conversations with my agent, that my story wouldn’t work for the publisher I intended to pitch. I had no idea what to do next. I wanted to quit.
After a few weeks of pouting, I focused on a story I’ve had in mind for over a year. It’s not a historical novel, but Ulysses S. Grant is a prominent figure in the book. He’s become a hero of mine for many reasons, but one is his perseverance.
Grant said, “…when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing I intended was accomplished.”Whatever happens, don’t turn back. @LisaKelleyWrite #writing #perseverance #encouragement Click To Tweet
Grant proved this to be true even in his final year of life. In 1884, he began writing his memoirs. Century magazine offered him a $1,000 signing bonus. As he considered their offer, he discovered he had throat cancer.
Mark Twain, Grant’s friend, eventually persuaded him to allow Twain to publish the memoirs. He offered Grant a $10,000 advance, which Grant refused. He accepted $1,000. Grant needed the money because he’d lost everything in a Ponzi scheme, and he didn’t want to leave his family destitute. But he knew his friend had offered the larger amount because of his situation, and he doubted that anyone would want to read his memoirs.
Still, he wrote at a feverish pace, even as the cancer advanced. He pushed through unbelievable pain and suffering, handwriting 10,000 words on many days. On July 20, 1885, eleven months after starting, Grant finished a two-volume, 291,000 word memoir. Three days later, he died.
After reading this amazing account, I began to brainstorm ideas and, after a few weeks, settled on a story that is now with an editor.
Romans 5:3–4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV) Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (NIV) That’s what I want to do. Keep running to get the prize.
Grant’s memoirs became a bestseller at the end of the 19th century, selling over 350,000 copies initially. His widow received approximately $450,000, which is close to $15,000,000 by today’s standards. Critics consider it one of the best memoirs ever written. And it is still sold today. All of this was possible because Grant persevered.
Will there be more trials? Yes. I may never win an award or even get a contract, but I will remain hopeful that my hard work will one day pay off. Maybe you’ve experienced rejection and even hurtful criticism of your writing, too. Don’t quit. Keep writing. Be like Grant and say, “…whatever happens there will be no turning back.”
Lisa Kelley writes witty, contemporary romances to entertain and to show people how beautiful Jesus is. An Arkansas native, Lisa is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. In her spare time, she loves to travel and relax with her family and friends.