The Talent of Tenacity

ACFWAdvice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Perseverance, writing 3 Comments

By Tanara McCauley @TanaraMcCauley

There’s a story my father loves to tell to anyone who’ll listen. It’s an embarrassing boast of the
my-kid-could’ve-been-this variety, and I shake my head whenever I hear its intro.

Runner at starting line

He recounts how, when I was a scrawny eighth-grade sprinter on the track team, I missed the start of an 800-meter race due to an untimely trip to the bathroom. In truth I’d been hiding, for I wasn’t a distance runner and wanted no part in the event assigned to me after the original athlete pulled a no-show. His story goes on to tell how I was found in said bathroom and whisked out to join the race half a lap behind the last runner. Then, against all odds, I won first place.

If we writers must put confidence in any talent, let it be the talent of tenacity. @TanaraMcCauley #writing #ChristianFiction #ACFW #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Though hard to believe, the story is true (minus Dad’s insistence that I sped down the track with toilet paper flapping behind my shoe like a ribbon of victory).

One might expect a girl with the potential for such a comeback to become a great athlete someday. And I did—for that entire eighth grade season. My natural swiftness at that young age gave coaches, family, and friends alike grand dreams of my future gold medals.

By the time I reached high school, however, the pool of competitors increased, and what they brought to the table far outmatched my lackadaisical training efforts and pseudo-competitive spirit.

I desired to win, but not enough to train mornings, afternoons, and weekends; I barely completed the sets assigned during a standard practice. Before long I was passed up by all of the runners willing to work hard for the success that raw talent could not attain. There were no Olympics in my future. I retired my track cleats and moved on to other things.

That sounds like a tragic ending, and maybe it was for those ambitious on my behalf. I, however, despised running; I had joined the track team for the social aspects and got from the experience what I wanted. I also walked away with valuable lessons for life’s various races.

The most obvious lesson is that talent alone won’t serve anyone who wants to excel in what they do. For writers, that means we must read, study, draft, collaborate, critique, workshop, write, rewrite, spend, travel, re-imagine, and repeat.

Let’s run our races having been diligent to gain mastery, and write stories imbued with a touch of wonderful. @TanaraMcCauley #writing #encouragement #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

A natural ability with words will only stretch so far. We might get shining moments: a contest win, a short story publication, a five-star review sprinkled among the three-star ratings; but we won’t realize the full potential of our gifts if we socialize on the sidelines instead of training to win our races.

Even Michelangelo, believed to be one of the most talented artists of all time, admitted, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” He coupled his talent with a tenacious effort to learn, grow, and excel through hard work, and his creations have endured. Such is the race we writers must run if we want to finish well.

An equally important lesson is the need to look at hard work with the right perspective. “Hard” connotes something unpleasant we don’t want to experience. In reality, hard work is a remedy. That heartbreaking rejection letter? The scathing review? For every failure or disappointment, hard work allows us to scoot back up to the desk to analyze, research, practice, understand, and finally overcome. Hard work provides hope—chance after chance after chance to run again.

So, if we writers must put confidence in any talent, let it be the talent of tenacity. Let’s run our races having been diligent to gain mastery, and write stories imbued with a touch of wonderful.

Tanara McCauley is a writer of stories inspired by the adventure she lives in Christ. That adventure includes one husband, three children, and a fearful little dog named Charlie. And books. Lots and lots of books. Visit her website at or Facebook.


Comments 3

  1. Thank you for that encouragement, it really spoke to me. I loved: “A natural ability with words will only stretch so far.” Well said. I recently took a short break from writing, but I’m going to put my “running” (writing) shoes back on–with gusto. Oh, and tenacity, of course.

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