What WD-40 can do for your writing

In North America, WD-40 is a house­hold name. Nearly every­one has one of the small blue and yel­low can­is­ters un­der their kit­chen sink or on a work­shop bench in the base­ment or garage.

Marketed as “The Can with 1,000 Uses,” people of­ten use WD-40 to stop squeaks, pre­vent rust and re­move dirt from hard to reach places. In our house it’s the go-to can for fix­ing squeaky door hinges and loosen­ing nuts and bolts.

A vis­it to www​.wd40​.com re­veals oth­er pos­sible applications:

  • clean­ing and lub­ric­at­ing gui­tar strings
  • eras­ing cray­on art­work from walls
  • un­tangling jew­ellery chains
  • keep­ing flies off cows
  • clean­ing bowl­ing balls
  • get­ting pea­nut but­ter out of shoestrings
  • pre­vent­ing bath­room mir­rors from fog­ging up
  • giv­ing a floor that “just waxed” sheen without leav­ing it slippery

(Just so you know, the 2,000+ list of po­ten­tial uses found on the WD-40 web­site has been com­piled from pub­lic sub­mis­sions and in no way im­plies en­dorse­ment by WD-40 or me.)

The su­per spray was de­veloped in 1953 by California res­id­ent Norm Larsen. As founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, he was look­ing for a way to re­pel wa­ter and pre­vent cor­ro­sion. His in­ven­tion was first used to pre­vent rust and cor­ro­sion on the out­er skin of the Atlas mis­sile and was avail­able on store shelves by 1958.

But the really in­ter­est­ing thing about WD-40 is its name. The WD stands for wa­ter dis­place­ment. And the 40 in­dic­ates that the for­mula was Larsen’s 40th at­tempt. That’s right. He re­worked and tested his idea 40 times be­fore cre­at­ing some­thing marketable.

And what does this have to do with writ­ing? Lots, ac­tu­ally and I’m not talk­ing about lub­ric­at­ing your squeaky of­fice chair.

We’ve all heard about fam­ous au­thors who re­ceived mul­tiple re­jec­tions be­fore get­ting pub­lished. Here are some fig­ures I found on the Internet:

  • J.K. Rowling’s ma­nu­script was re­jec­ted 12 times be­fore her first Harry Potter book was published
  • The Diary of Anne Frank re­ceived 15 rejections
  • John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was turned down by 16 publishers
  • Williams Golding’s clas­sic, The Lord of the Flies, col­lec­ted 20 re­jec­tion slips
  • Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind re­ceived 38 rejections
  • Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul re­ceived a whop­ping 134 rejections

Just like Larson, theses au­thors didn’t give up un­til they suc­ceeded. They kept pol­ish­ing and re­view­ing their work and send­ing it out un­til a pub­lish­er said “yes.”

Everyone struggles with cre­at­ive en­deavors from time to time. Getting some­thing right isn’t al­ways easy. It usu­ally re­quires hefty amounts of com­mit­ment, time and en­ergy. And some­times it seems like the most sens­ible thing to do is give up.

That’s when a little in­spir­a­tion can help a lot. Not every­one has a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on hand to re­mind them of what J.K. Rowling went through be­fore she achieved her goal. But most folks have one of those little blue and yel­low cans in the house or garage.

So, when in doubt, get the WD-40 out. If Larson could do it, maybe you can too.

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