What Does Effective Persistence Look Like?

There’s lots of advice out there to persist, to keep trying, that no one gets anywhere without working regularly. Take this quote for example:

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

Octavia E. Butler, quoted in The Writer

While I am convinced persistence is vital to completing complex projects (like novels or quilts) or improving your skills, it’s hard to know what it actually looks like.

Some people argue for daily effort: write every day, draw every day, exercise every day. But that isn’t always possible, and can set you up for failure. If I fail to write today, have I failed completely? No. I can always write tomorrow. But the Every Day philosophy can provide lots of ammunition for those prone to self-criticism.

For me, persistence is about coming back to something, showing up again after being away, even if it’s only one day. It’s not being there every day but every day that I can that matters.

Every day is not possible for me because I have to take days off for health reasons. So letting myself define persistence as Every Day That I Can makes a big difference. It gives me permission to take the breaks I need, while valuing the effort I make.

How do you define persistence? Are there things you do every day? Does a day off or longer break disrupt your momentum? Or do you need time off from your projects?

2 thoughts on “What Does Effective Persistence Look Like?

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  1. This is a fabulous perspective Kit! Like you, I don’t feel we need to hold ourselves to an “every day” philosophy. As you said, that can set us up for failure (or at least feeling we’ve failed). “Every day I can” is much more doable. Blessings to you!

    1. For some people, every day really works. I’m just not one of them. Of course, “every day I can”the can be vague and troublesome in it’s own way. The key thing is to keep showing up.

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