Patience. What does that word mean to you? To me, it is taking a deep breath and persisting—often uphill—with faith that I will get there in the end. It’s a habit and a state of mind, and it requires a lot of practice. Fortunately, as writers, the practice comes whether we want it or not.
Writers must become friends with the virtue of patience, as much as we must with persistence. It is often said that the difference between a published and unpublished writer is that one kept on writing. I would like to add that the difference between a frustrated writer (published or unpublished) and a happy writer is the ability to accept that writing progresses v…e…r…y s…l…o…w…l…y. And that is OK.
Slow progress is for many reasons, including the reliance on others (contest results, beta readers, editors, publishing timeframes, figures provided quarterly). But what I’m talking about mostly is the intrusion of life.
I was chatting with another writer friend recently. She said, with a bit of an edge to her voice, “It’s not really working. I’m not 100% in any area of life at the moment. I need to be stricter with my time!” Having just spent the day procrastinating and eating chocolate (so much for the hope my Lenten season of no chocolate would endure!), I wholeheartedly agreed. The procrastination was borne mostly of distraction. Like my friend, I’m trying to juggle a lot of different jobs, and fitting writing in around them. I’m sure you’re the same, most writers are! But that’s OK.
Patience here is not feeling frustrated that you’ve “wasted” a whole day. Then beating yourself up about that (or getting mad with the others who caused that). It’s not throwing away your goals because you missed some milestones. (Maybe because you had to self-isolate for 7 days and spend some quality time distracting yourself from your possible impending doom with HBO, for example. Not based on a true story at all.) It’s about pausing the timer.
Take a deep breath. Reset your goals. Keep going. The best thing about this profession is there are deadlines, but there is no race. Your career won’t crumble into dust because you didn’t write a novel one year, or you didn’t enter the competition, or you didn’t do whatever absolutely critical thing you know would make or break everything. I promise.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Harlequin Editor Emily Rodmell, which I feel summarises the reason we need to master the Art of Patience: