For a few years, my brothers and I used to play this game. The name we used for it is utterly politically incorrect, so I'll just call it Kill the Guy. It was pretty simple: we threw a ball around the yard. If you caught the ball, everyone else tried to take it away. That was it. No rules. Full-contact tackling, gouging, biting, dragging, kicking, crying, telling parents, hiding ... it was all fair game. It was the most brutal game of hot potato ever invented.
There were two great lessons in this game. First, you could tell right away which brothers had no interest in getting the ball. 'Cause getting the ball meant you were the sudden object of a great deal of violent attention. It took guts for the littlest ones of us to hold the ball for more than a few seconds before some older brother pounded you to the ground. Second, we found out who was willing to go all-out, balls-to-the-wall crazy to bring down the ball carrier ...
After one game, I asked a brother of mine if he'd let me bring him down one particular time. This brother was ten years older than me. He was an athlete who could walk across the yard on his hands and do flips with no trampoline. I figured he was being nice.
"No," he said. "I didn't let you. But you did anyway. Because you put in that second effort. You grabbed my heel on the way down, after I shook you off ..."
I've thought about that exchange a lot since then. I was probably eight when he said this to me, but it was one of those moments when someone else illuminates a quality you don't even know you had. At the time, I had no idea what the word "persistent" meant, and in my family, the word they usually used to describe me was "stubborn" (or just "obnoxious"). But later, I've learned that persistence may be the quality that, more than anything else, gets me through the day.
So it goes with writing. I'm a little stuck right now, flailing a bit with my new WIP. I'm still processing what just happened with my first book, and my nerves are a little shot with the second book about to go out. I'm raw as road rash. But none of that matters, because I can still feel a reservoir of persistence kicking around down in there. And I think maybe that's one of the most important qualities any writer can have.