Thursday, October 07, 2010

Patience, grasshopper

The one thing (beyond some modicum of innate talent at stringing words together) necessary to make it in writing?


I was telling this to the group of eighth graders I mentioned in an earlier post. I could see their eyes roll. I could hear the switches tripping off in their brains as they decided, "yep, another grown-up telling me to hang tight." (Or whatever kids say these days to indicate patience.)

But now that I am a hundred fifty eight years old (that's the age I give the third graders I'm helping when they ask me how old I am), it seems pretty clear to me that the thing that separates the goats from the sheep, the wheat from the chaff, is patience.

Patience has helped me realize what I don't know -- and boy, I don't know a lot. (Please don't tell The Husband this. He's under the impression that I am a near genius, or at least he thinks I think I am.) By being patient, I've learned, more than anything, that I have to ask questions.

Patience has helped me forgive myself time and again for not being the perfect writer, capable of writing the perfect novel on the first try and in the perfectly short period of time I'd like to crank out said perfect novel.

But more than teaching me what I don't know and helping me forgive myself for my ignorance, patience helps me endure the very nature of the publishing beast. That's hard to comprehend in the age of microwavable frozen rice (yes, check it out, it's in your grocer's freezer. Amazing that 20 minutes is too long to wait for rice. Now we have to nuke it.)

Molasses in the winter moves at the speed of light compared to publishing's meandering, poky pace. Without being able to white knuckle the hurry-up-and-wait aspect of the business of writing, I would have given up a long time ago. I would have never been published the first time, much less three more.

Show me two writers, one a phenomenally talented but impatient sort, and the other not-quite-so talented but infinitely more patient, and I guarantee you, the patient one will win out. Agents and editors don't appreciate fidgety types any more than your third grade teacher did. In writing and publishing -- just like life -- patience is indeed a virtue.


Jessica Lemmon said...

*Big Virtual Hug* I NEEDED to hear that today! Patience isn't my finest attribute, but I'm getting better. :-) It's the tortise and the hare thing all over again isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I've become more patient as a writer.

Years ago I was impatient and made a ton of mistakes in my querying and writing endeavors.

Tawna Fenske said...

Amen to all of this!

As much as you start out believing talent is the most crucial thing you need to be a writer, it runs a distant second to patience. I've definitely learned that along the way!