by Robert Sperber
I couldn’t help thinking, when I read about Vaclev Havel’s death last month, how short life is and how important it is that we use whatever time we have to stay true to what we believe in. Whether it’s fighting a totalitarian regime ̶ in Havel’s case, the Soviet Union ̶ or something smaller and more personal, like pursuing medical research or a legal cause you care about, the race goes not necessarily to the swiftest, but to those who stay the course.
Sometimes it seems hopeless. And sometimes it is, at least for a while. Havel, who became president of Czechoslovakia (later The Czech Republic), was a dissident award-winning playwright who spent years imprisoned by the puppet Czech government and then given menial labor jobs because he persisted in his dream of a free, independent country. That he succeeded in his lifetime may have been as much a surprise to him as to his countrymen, but I doubt whether he ever questioned that his cause would eventually succeed.
In his heart, he knew what all who achieve their dreams know: we are here only so many years, those years go by quickly and we all eventually die. Better to die for something than die for nothing.
Persistence is the key.
Most of us, of course, are not engaged in global struggles. Many fight smaller, but no less brave, battles: proving the innocence of those wrongfully convicted, proving the guilt of those who got away with crimes, persevering in breakthrough medical research, or helping a child with a learning disability make sense of processes the rest of us take for granted.
For some, it’s more personal: Overcoming a speech impediment, fighting alcoholism or drug addiction, standing up to bullies, winning over that girl (or guy), or excelling in javelin throwing. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we all believe in ourselves and the cause we fight for, get through those dark hours and carry on.
I face this myself as I write the sequel to my first novel. Writing is a wonderful, yet agonizing, process. There are days of exultation, when the words sound right and I can do no wrong. And there are days when that doesn’t happen. But I remind myself that I felt the same way with my first book, Lines of Control, now doing remarkably well. So I persist, keep at it, and soon that second book, followed by others, will be out there.
My characters, particularly Charlotte Westbrook and her colleague Lewis Sullivan, are no different in their quest for justice. Charlotte doubts herself, gets herself in trouble for overstepping her bounds to the point that she risks her career, but she persists. And in the end (at least so far), she has won.
There’s a lesson there for all of us. Moments of inspiration in your cause, whatever that cause is, are great, but you can’t wait for them. Force yourself to move forward every day. You’ll reach your goal and know that your persistence made all the difference.