What I’d Wish I’d Known as a New Writer: Patience

Patience has been a theme I have returned to at the Tamago, time and time again. My natural inclination is not to be patient. I hate waiting. I have grappled with “there is a season–turn, turn, turn” all my life.

Like a fool, I decided to pursue writing seriously. Listen up, Writer-me-of-the-past! You think that you can become patient, but you have no idea of the monumental task in front of you.

The publishing industry measures getting things done in measurements of epochs. Say you have a story accepted, and you are waiting on edits. That could take a long time? Three months? Try longer. A year? Maybe longer. Say you have a submission out. How long could that take? I know authors who have heard from slush piles 2 or more years later.

There are two things that will affect how long you feel you’re waiting. Of course, you are anxious for feedback about your efforts. In your case, Writer-me, the waiting is worse than the rejection. Of course you want feedback in your ethnocentric universe. You spent kaboodles of time on your work. The other thing is that you will mistakenly measure the speed of the publishing turtle by the the speed of your job. Even in a job like yours, Writer-me, where things take time, they don’t take this much time.

Forget all you know or think you know about patience. The only way you will survive this gig is to truly let your project go, and move onto the next thing. For the first few attempts, you will only be half-hearted in this effort. However, after you get to know other writers who are productive and are going through the insane waiting as well, it becomes progressively easier. It becomes cool to work on the next thing, and you will learn patience and letting go.

The other thing that will really assist you with the waiting is to assess your goals. This is the bus analogy I coined over breakfast one morning in Vegas hanging out with Miranda Suri. Different writers get off at different stops. It’s all good. For example, my goal now (and some day in the future, Writer-me) is to write a book good enough that an agent will love it. (Yes, marry it, or at least set it up in a long term relationship in a New York penthouse.) That means I have to be patient about learning a whole new style of writing.

This will come about, Writer-me, only after you’ve gotten past some ego issues (which may be another one of these entries). What this means is you will be on the bus probably after a lot of people have gotten off, and the the lights have come on, and most of the vinyl benches are clear.

Where are the other writers? Some of them got off earlier, because they weren’t wild about being on the bus. Others liked the nice little small press stop, and decided it was a good place to be (I got off there for a while, and it is!). Some have gotten off at other agent stops. Or at the commercial stop. Or at the phenomena stop (I hear that’s a great place, but the restaurants in the neighborhood are lousy!) At the indie stop. At the self-publish stop. On and on.

Do you see a theme? There’s so much waiting involved, and so many different ways to play the game, the question is do you want to do this? Really? As I mentioned in another entry, petty crime will get you results much sooner. The waiting really does get easier as you practice more, and the longer you stay on the bus. You will master it.

Now you can move on up to a monastery in Tibet and work out that life is an illusion. Or you can keep writing.

Next lesson: The world is full of good, talented writers, and what that really means for your career.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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