Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘persistence

Do All You Can…

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…even when it doesn’t feel like it’ll be enough.

That is my motto, right now.

As I continue to struggle with my health, I have to remind myself that sometimes, doing all I can means to rest. Recover. Eat as much as I can (with a raw throat, that’s not easy, but it is again possible), and in as balanced a way as I can…take probiotics, to keep the antibiotics I’m on from destroying my gut bacteria…laugh, because it’s better than crying. (Or pulling my hair out.)

I continue to work on my plotting exercise (I talked about this yesterday), and will hope this will keep me from going stir-crazy.

I did write a thousand words today, though it was a different sort of exercise entirely, and was prompted by home internet problems. (I hate that, but it’s a very minor woe, all things considered. At least I can get out and use the internet elsewhere. So it adds a step when I am not at my best. So what?)

And I looked at the two edits in progress, figured out where I am, and have a good idea where I need to be starting tomorrow to finish them both up.

So, I’m staying on top of it as best I can. And am doing whatever I can, even though as I said above, it truly doesn’t feel like enough.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

A “Changing Faces” Update…or Persistence is Key, Part 2

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Folks, back in 2011 I wrote a blog called “Persistence is Key.” While I’d reword a number of things differently now, I feel much the same way…which is why I’m writing another blog about why persistence is key. (Calling it “Part 2” hopefully links it in your mind that this is a recurring theme. And themes work well for writers. Right?)

Edited to add: Yes, there’s a CHANGING FACES update here. Bear with me. Now, back to your regular blog, already in progress…

Now, why do I feel that the quality of persistence is so important? Simple. Without a rock-solid belief in yourself and your abilities, and the willingness to continue to work hard at whatever they are, nothing of any substance is likely to get done.

Consider, please, that writers often take up to a year to finish writing a book. (OK, OK. Some write faster than this. Some, like my friend Chris Nuttall, write so enormously fast, they put out at least six books a year. But I digress.) We first think about it, which to some involves outlining and/or writing prose notes explaining just what you intend to do. (This would predate a formal synopsis, mind. It’s your formative thoughts about what you think you’re about to do. Clear as mud, no?) Then, after thinking about it for a while, we sit down to write…and after a time, the first draft is done.

Now, do we writers rest on our laurels after the first draft? No, we don’t. We can’t, because the first draft of a story may not be anything close to the final version.

I’m running into that right now with my transgender fantasy romance novel, CHANGING FACES. (See, I told you I’d get to it.) I’ve had one of the characters, Allen, down cold for years. But the other one, Elaine, is continually surprising me with her insight, her biting wit, and the enormity of her challenges. (That she’s a gender-fluid person who prefers the pronoun “she” all the time is only one of those challenges.) And then there are the nonhuman characters to worry about, too (as I did tell you it’s a fantasy romance, right?) — they’re like angels, except they’re a completely different conception than any angel I’ve ever read about before.

Now, I’ve been working on CHANGING FACES, off and on, for at least the last fifteen years. It’s gone through multiple revisions. The way I “see” my characters has evolved over time. And the way I describe them, and show their story as best I can, has also evolved as I’ve gained skill as a writer.

That is what persistence is all about. (Well, that and sheer cussedness. But that’s another blog subject entirely.)

So, while I continue to fight it out to finish this final version of CHANGING FACES for publication later this year via Twilight Times Books, I want you all to remember something Malcolm Gladwell said in his book OUTLIERS. (I reviewed it at Shiny Book Review years ago; here’s a link.)

It takes people an average of 10,000 hours to become skilled in his/her field. That means you have to keep working at your craft, or you’re just not going to be very good at it by definition. Very few, if any, of us come fully formed out of our mother’s womb and know exactly what we’re going to be…and even when we do know where our skills are strongest, it still takes at least 10,000 hours to be able to use them well.

It’s not easy to amass this many hours doing something in this day and age. Those of us who don’t have much in the way of money have to be extremely stubborn in order to persist, work on our craft, persist some more, work on our craft some more, etc., until we achieve some measure of success.

And that success may not always be worldly success. Gladwell talks about genius Chris Langan, who has not managed thus far in his life to break through to worldwide fame and fortune despite his scientific gifts. Then again, Langan doesn’t seem to care about that overmuch; he just wants to use his gifts productively. (He has come up with something called a Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe, so all his thinking has come up with something different and original. Good for him!)

Are we supposed to give up if we don’t make a financial success of ourselves immediately after doing all this work? I say, “Hell, no!” to that.


We can’t control the market, you see. We can’t control how we’re received in that market, either. But we can control whether or not we’re still in there fighting, to give ourselves the chance to break through — and in the process, let our voices be heard. (And our books be read, too!)

That is why I say that persistence is key. Because gifts and talents are not enough without sheer, hard work to back them up.

So work on your craft. Keep trying. Refuse to give up. And learn as much as you can along the way.

That’s the way to become a true success in any field of endeavor.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 8, 2016 at 5:57 am

“Youngstown Boys” a Story of Hope, Redemption, and College Athletics

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Folks, over the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with first something akin to strep throat, then a nasty sinus bug. While I’ve continued to edit and write as much as I can, I haven’t been able to be online much and I certainly haven’t been able to blog. It’s not a fun state to be in, to put it mildly.

What I do when I’m feeling like this is watch a lot of television. But in addition to watching the Milwaukee Brewers play baseball, which I do whether sick or well, I’ve been catching up with ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentaries. And one, in particular, I felt was quite memorable: Youngstown Boys.

Why? Well, this is a documentary of troubled running back Maurice Clarett, once of Ohio State University, and his college coach, Jim Tressel. Both were from Youngstown, Ohio (hence the name); both started at OSU at the same time. And while Tressel stayed involved in Clarett’s life, good things happened for both of them, culminating in a 14-0 season and a double-overtime win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl during the 2002 season.

Then Clarett ran into trouble. He’d gotten some help with getting a car and a cell phone. He admits to this in the film. The NCAA, in their infinite whatever, started an investigation — but before the NCAA could suspend Clarett, OSU suspended him instead . . . for the entire 2003 season.

And Tressel, the guy who had said he’d help Clarett when Tressel had recruited him, stood aside. (Possibly Tressel was in fear of losing his own job, or maybe Tressel just didn’t have the strength of character to intercede right then and there. But Tressel redeemed himself later on . . . more on that later.)

At this point, I was livid. I am a big proponent of players being paid, and think the way the NCAA forces athletes to live is utterly wrong. And the whole idea that a young man like Clarett, whose only goal in life was to play professional football, could get derailed like this was quite frustrating.

But it got worse. Clarett’s lawyers sued the NFL and tried to get him “draft-eligible,” as this was Clarett’s best shot at making a living. Clarett won his first-round court case, too . . . but lost later on.

So what’s a guy to do when he doesn’t have his scholarship, is poor, has tremendous athletic gifts, but has no direction? Clarett tried for a few years to ready himself for the NFL on his own, with indifferent success. And while Clarett was drafted by the Denver Broncos down the line, he never took so much as one snap in a preseason game before being let go by the Broncos.

After that, things just went into a downward spiral for Clarett. He ended up in prison, which could’ve broken him.

Instead, prison actually saved him — saved his life — as he started using his intelligence for good things. He started to read voraciously. He stayed in good contact with his girlfriend, calling her every day, and even started a blog (he’d read what he’d written to her, and she’d post it online). And he vowed to both redeem himself and to reform.

At this point, Tressel ran into trouble himself due to a recruiting scandal at OSU. Maybe because of this — the movie wasn’t clear — Tressel decided to involve himself again in Clarett’s life. And the two of them have become fast friends, working on behalf of improving other people’s lives. Reminding people that so long as you live, you can hope for better, dream of better — and you should do those very things no matter how badly the deck is stacked against you.

Mind, both of these men’s lives have not gone according to plan. Clarett, who had all the talent in the world to become a star running back in professional football, is now a motivational speaker and runs football camps. And Tressel, oddly enough, is now the President of Youngstown State University — a place where he won multiple national football championships at the I-AA level (now called the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS) — and has retired from coaching college football.

But I venture to say that the detours both men’s lives have taken have made them better and stronger people. Clarett speaks to many, including former and current inmates, and his words have the ring of authority. He’s done some very strong and positive things since getting out of prison, and it’s possible that none of that would’ve happened if he hadn’t gotten into bad trouble — then clawed his way out of it. And Tressel is active in many charities and has stayed in contact with many of his former players, including a number of troubled ones, and his life has been deepened and broadened thereby also.

Youngstown Boys, in short, was a powerful film that affected me deeply.  It showed that no matter how long it takes, goals and dreams matter. Even if you don’t achieve one goal today, you can still achieve it tomorrow; even if you can’t do it tomorrow, you can do it the next day if you refuse to give up, you refuse to give in, and you refuse to take “no” for an answer.

I think many people — not just writers, editors, and musicians — can learn from these men. Because it shows that redemption is truly possible, and that you can, indeed, become a better and stronger person through adversity.


Quick note: I’ll be working on a couple of stories the rest of this week, so blog posts may be scarce. But I hope to finally get a review up of VICTORIES at Shiny Book Review later this week, so do stay tuned for that (computer connectivity problems kept me from it last week).