What ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Teaches Us About Persistence
March 12, 2018
If you go see A Wrinkle in Time this week, give a little thanks to "women who persist" before the lights dim. The new film, starring Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Storm Reid, is born out of countless failures overcome by sheer determination.
The movie is based on Madeleine L'Engle’s 1962 novel of the same name. It's a classic young adult sci-fi story that’s sold more than 16 million copies worldwide, claiming a coveted Newberry Medal along the way.
But the book almost didn’t exist.
After writing the story, L’Engle worked for two long years to get the book published.
“Over and over again, I received nothing more than the formal, printed rejection slip,” L’Engle, who passed away in 2007, explained in a Q&A that’s now included in the book. “Eventually, after 26 rejections, I called my agent and said, ‘Send it back. It’s too different. Nobody’s going to publish it.’”
"Over and over again, I received nothing more than the formal, printed rejection slip." - Madeleine L'Engle, author of 'A Wrinkle in Time'
It’s a moment we’ve all probably faced in some way—when the possible or near impossible veers strongly towards “impossible” territory. When what we’re trying to do feels too outside the scope of what’s “allowed” or what’s “approved.” In those moments, we’re faced with a decision: Do we keep trying? Or, do we give up?
Briefly, L’Engle threw in the towel. Her agent pulled the manuscript. But a few days later, she met a publisher at a friend’s insistance. That publisher? He didn’t deliver a 27th rejection.
“He liked the manuscript, and eventually decided to publish it,” L’Engle said in the Q&A.
It was a happy ending for L’Engle—but the start of a long journey to make the book into a movie. One of the film’s producers, Catherine Hand, first read the book as a 10-year-old in 1963—and she's literally worked since then to bring the story to the big screen, according to TIME.
The book was finally optioned to become a movie 30 years ago, according to the New York Post. Disney made an underwhelming made-for-TV movie in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2016, when Ava DuVernay agreed to direct the film, that Wrinkle finally earned its big screen due.
And DuVernay? Her road to becoming a top director wasn’t easy. She faced seven rejections when trying to get her first film accepted to the Sundance Film Festival.
She’s now the first woman of color to direct a movie with a budget over $100 million. “Women directors, we’re not getting people just saying, ‘Hey, let’s talk about this $100 million sci-fi epic,’” DuVernay told TIME.
Ava DuVernay's now the first woman of color to direct a movie with a budget over $100 million.
The A Wrinkle in Time movie comes out of these stories of persistence, and the movie itself tells the story of a girl, Meg, persisting in her own way. Meg fights to save her father, who's lost in the space time continuum, a feat she feels impossible.
In a pivotal moment in the book (I won't spoil it!), Meg is asked if she has the courage to do what's asked of her—to try again at something she's failed at before.
Meg's response: "No, but it doesn't matter. You know it's the only thing to do." For Meg, the only way forward is to try again.
From the story, to the director, to the producer, to the author, A Wrinkle in Time wouldn’t exist if women hadn’t persisted.
All this to say: A lot of things don’t come easily. And, oftentimes, the things that matter most don’t come easily. But everyone has a long line of failures leading to their big success—and it all comes down to persistence.
So, how will you persist?
Read next: You Are Not a Failure