Thoughts on Writing and Patience
You have no idea how ironic it is for me to be writing a blog post on the value of patience. I am probably one of the most impatient beings on this earth. Not in an annoying, I-must-not-wait-more-than-ten-minutes-at-a-restaurant kind of way. More in an all-consuming, anxiety-laden existence sort of way. I can wait a long time on little things like a pizza I ordered, or in line at the grocery store just fine. But if I have to sit and spin my wheels on something that really matters to me I start to lose my mind real quick. Good thing no one ever has to wait for a long time on things in the publishing industry.
Being a writer is an exercise in patience. You have to be patient waiting for feedback from beta readers. Patient waiting for responses when you’re querying agents. Even more patient when you’re on submission to editors. Even once you get a deal, you’re still going to be waiting for your announcement, contract, edits, cover reveal… you name it. But it’s not even just the industry stuff that keeps us waiting. It’s the art form itself.
You have to be patient with yourself when you’re writing a first draft. And, news flash, that shit is not going to come out right the first time no matter how hard you try, so you also have to be patient during the editing process. A novel, like Rome, isn’t built in a day. Even for the fastest writers, the drafting and editing process for one book takes a few months. And guess what the best part is?
Once you finish all the steps with one book… you just get to start them all over again with another one! Lucky you!
The only way I (a very impatient person) have survived this process so far is by finding little ways to trick myself into thinking I’m moving forward instead of standing still. Fortunately, the trick I’ve found works pretty well. Unfortunately, my main trick is just to keep myself busy as fuck.
Going against basically every piece of advice I’ve heard from anyone, I try to never be “between projects.” Just sitting, not writing, and waiting for an editor or agent or beta reader to get back to me is my personal hell. I have written random short stories about characters I’m workshopping just to keep moving. Hell, one of the reasons I started this blog was because I was between projects and my fingers were itching for my keyboard.
When I am actively drafting, word count goals are my best friend. “You’re moving too slowly,” says the impatient part of my brain. But if I have a word count goal - something tangible I can point to - I can prove to myself that I am truly making progress, even if it feels slow.
So, I want to stay busy, but I definitely don’t want to burn out. It’s all about finding a balance. For example, right now I am waiting for feedback from my editor. Once I hear back I know I may end up in a mad sprint to finish edits before the next deadline, so I don’t want to push myself too hard right now. On the other hand, I definitely can’t just sit here and wait, because I will claw my eyeballs out of my skull. So my word count goal right now is 500 words per day. Low enough that I can easily meet it while working full time (and surviving… *gestures vaguely to the world at present*), but high enough to still feel like I’m making real progress toward my goals every day. It’s so much easier to be patient when I feel like I’m still moving forward!
What about you guys? What are your best tips for keeping your sanity while playing the waiting game of writing and publishing? Tweet me @mj_kuhn and let me know!