Some people think I’m a writer because I have talent.
It’s nice of them to think that.
But talent is not makes me a writer.
The thing that makes me a writer is tenacity.
What is tenacity?
“The quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly; grip.”
When a story has a grip on me, it won’t let go. And I won’t let it go either.
The idea for SEVEN DUDES DOC AND THE SEVEN came to me in 2005. I thought about it and took notes on it for 11 years. Finally, in 2016, I started writing the first draft, and after nine months, I finished it.
When you look at it that way, it wasn’t the writing that was the hardest part (even though it was hard!); it was holding onto the story all those years, believing in it, and doing something about it that was the hardest part. That’s tenacity, not talent.
“The quality or fact of being very determined; determination.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a determined person. But what they don’t know is how easy it is for me to give up. Case in point: even though I worked hard on my middle-grade novel, THE CONTENDERS, and my four beta readers loved it; when it didn’t get picked up by one of the fifteen agents that I queried, I gave up on it. I felt defeated. I didn’t want to query any more agents. I put my manuscript on a shelf and let it gather dust for four years.
It was only when my husband Marcus convinced me to take another look at it, and consider publishing it myself, that my old determination kicked in again.
I learned from this experience that being determined doesn’t mean you never give up. Sometimes you need to quit. Sometimes you need a break. Sometimes walking away from a project can help you realize how important (or not important) something is to you. People with talent often think things should come easy to them. But being willing to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again after many years? That’s not talent, that’s tenacity.
“The quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence.”
Over the past thirteen years, I’ve written two screenplays, five picture books, three prelaw books, two novels, and a smattering of poems. I’m still a novice. I’m still learning my craft every day.
But I realized something important this year.
I’m a writer because I continue to write. No matter where my life takes me, and what thorny paths I’ll need to traverse in order to survive, I’ll know inside that I’m a writer. By continuing to write, even if it’s just for five minutes a day, I’m a writer. I may have started writing because I had some talent, but it’s tenacity that keeps me writing.
So, next time someone tells me that I’m a writer because I have talent, I’ll smile and say, “Thank you.”
But inside, I’ll know the truth.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.