drseussBy Susan Laird

The happiest writers — and the ones who enjoy the biggest payoff— are those who doggedly follow their passions.

Just look at the life of Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss. During his lifetime, he wrote 46 children’s books, including such classics as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and The Lorax.

When Dr. Seuss books first appeared on library shelves in the mid-1950s, they were an instant success. However, Geisel’s journey to becoming a famous author was years in the making and required a fair mix of passion and persistence. We all can learn a lot from his experiences …

1) Embrace Your Past
Little Theodor’s mother enjoyed reading to him every night at bedtime. Often, she would make up rhyming stories, which he loved. This love of rhythm and rhyme stayed with him all his life. In fact, it made him unique among writers, right up to the present day.

Lesson: Each writer brings a unique voice to the “conversation” of writing. Don’t be afraid to use yours and write to make yourself happy!

2) Welcome The Journey
As a college student, Geisel loved writing for the college newspaper. During this time, he used his mother’s maiden name as a pen name: Dr. Seuss. (He added the “Dr.” to his name to honor his father, who wanted him to complete a doctorate degree, which he never did.)

He also loved drawing. A classmate who saw his sketches encouraged him to be an artist. Eventually, he found work as a newspaper cartoonist. Then during World War II, he created animated films. Publishers saw his work and encouraged him to illustrate a children’s book.

Lessons: Geisel didn’t set out to be a children’s author. His life journey, colored by the pursuit of his interests, led him down that road.

Finding your passion is a journey, but a rewarding one. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”

3) Look For Opportunity Everywhere
Geisel worked as an illustrator in the advertising industry for 15 years. In his spare time, he wrote his first book: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

It took Geisel a long time to sell the book to a publisher. He faced 27 rejections and months of being turned down.

When he ran into a friend from his college days, he mentioned his frustration.

“Let me show it to my boss,” said the friend.

The college chum, it turned out, was an editor for a publishing house. The little book rolled off the presses for the first time in 1937. Many books followed, and a career was “born.”

Lesson: Network with friends and associates. Be proud of your goals and share them with others. You never know who might help you.

4) Persevere
Geisel never gave up on his dream. He kept honing his craft, getting better, and simplifying.
He said, “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

Lesson: Writing is like a muscle. It gets easier the more you work it. Believe in yourself. Stay the course … and you will be a happy writer indeed.

Follow all this advice, and as Dr. Seuss would say, “You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”