Image of a snail exiting its shell to illustrate perseverance.

Sadeqa Johnson on Perseverance

Nine times. That’s the number of revisions Sadeqa Johnson completed with the editor she hired for her first novel, Love in a Carry-On Bag. She shared this story of perseverance during a keynote conversation with publicist Dawn Michelle Hardy at last weekend’s James River Writers Conference.

Those nine rounds of edits were on top of the ones she’d done to land an agent, and in addition to the ones she completed before her agent pitched her novel.

Yet despite all this hard work, every publisher passed.

In a matter of months, she went from a woman with a dream that for a well-connected New York City book publicist seemed like a sure thing, to a woman on the brink of failure.

Just when she was about to give up, her husband asked what she needed to succeed.

She blurted out, “An editor.”

Soon after, she hired one and started her own publishing company. Nine rounds of edits later, she self-published her novel and hustled to market it, sometimes hauling boxes of books to events where her kids walked around in t-shirts printed with “Buy my momma’s book.”

The payoff was huge. As Dawn Michelle said, “She never self-published a book again.”

Today, Sadeqa is the New York Times bestselling author of The House of Eve and Yellow Wife.

One of the gifts of attending a multi-genre conference, like James River Writers, is the chance to hear from authors you might not otherwise encounter. They often say just the thing you need to hear, and it never hurts to learn what helps someone achieve greatness. 

When asked what it takes to become a bestselling author, Dawn Michelle shared three pieces of advice: Believe in yourself. Know what you want. Be willing to do what it takes. That last one is all about perseverance.

In Sadeqa’s case, what she wanted was an editor. Once this was clear, she put it on her vision board and became willing to do the work required to turn her book dream into a reality.

Many writers fear self-publishing because of the hustle it requires, which is certainly something to consider. 

But sometimes it’s the next best step on the road toward achieving your dream. The key is knowing what success looks like for you, finding the best way forward, and then taking the next step, even when things don’t appear to be working out.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Sadeqa talked about the many walks she took when her kids were in strollers, where she sobbed her way down the road. Some days, she didn’t think she could do it. But even when she doubted, she took the next step and kept moving forward.

It all started with paying attention to her intuition. As her career progressed, she continued to heed its call.

A few years after the publication of her sophomore novel, Second House from the Corner, she heard the words “move.” The message wasn’t to move to a different house in New Jersey, but to a new location. Soon after, she made her way to Richmond.

A few months after her arrival, she strolled along the Richmond Slave Trail with some out-of-town guests and encountered a sign that goose-pimpled her flesh. She immediately knew she was supposed to tell this person’s story, which served as the inspiration for Yellow Wife, a novel awarded Best Book of the Year by NPR and Christian Science Monitor. Her latest book, The House of Eve, was an Instant New York Times Bestseller. 

I can’t thank Sadeqa enough for sharing her story of perseverance, and for the spark it lit inside me. 

Now, it’s your turn to explore your perseverance.

If you get really honest with yourself, what do you want? What are you willing to do to make it happen? What’s the next thing you need along this path? Don’t think about what everyone else says you need. Tap into what YOU KNOW to be true.

Once you answer these questions, create a vision board that represents your answers. Visit with it every day. Imagine your success as if it has already happened. Then confidently move forward with a willingness to do what it takes, whether it’s nine drafts or ninety, because that’s how dreams are manifested.

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