So, if you've read my How I Got My Agent story, you know that I am an extremely patient person.
On opposite day. I am an extremely patient person on opposite day.
Seriously though, it's one of the biggest skills I've learned over the past year, and though I'm still working on it, I now see the value to anyone pursuing publication. It's something you need from the first draft of your first book until, well, you stop writing permanently.
I mean, some people do that before they die, right?
Today I thought we'd talk about how patience is important throughout the pre-publishing process and how we can learn this skill if we lack it.
Over the last year I've had to teach myself that the first idea is not always going to be my best idea, and that like food, some ideas are better after they marinate. Now that I'm working on a new WIP, I'm relearning the skills necessary to finish a first draft--and patience is one of them.
I've also had to learn to be patient with my writing time. While hubby and I have been married for a long minute, it wasn't until our daughter was born that either of us ever really had to share our time. Both of us being only children, we're pretty good at entertaining ourselves, dealing with each other's 'me-time' and moodiness. It's actually one of the things that makes him my favorite husband EVER. But having a kid changed all that. Big Time. Calliope decides when we eat, when we sleep (okay, if we sleep) and we get a chance to rest. And by rest, I mean write because I have a full time job, too, so my writing time is seriously at a premium. So my daughter has been a huge asset in my learning patience this year.
For the record, I'm not suggesting anyone have a child in order to learn patience. In fact, it's probably a hell of a lot easier on your mental health if you learn patience before you take up parenting. But that's another story for a different blog.
Regardless of whether or not you're a parent, patience is a skill all writing writers need--because if you lock yourself in a room to write twenty-four hours a day, you'll lose the most important thing most writers cannot get from themselves. Inspiration.
So once you've crafted your words you move on to revision, which is near-impossible to do in a vacuum. You need patience not only for dealing with your own writing weaknesses but also for dealing with the people who provide you with feedback. There are some good tips for Coping with Critique on my last All the Feels post. You also learn that slowing down means taking time to get it right. And you need patience to not do what I did three times on the manuscript that finally landed me my agent--decide it's done before it's actually done. The fact of the matter is that sometimes revision is tedious, and, well, not much fun. So you need patience to do it right.
After that comes querying-unless you decide to jump straight to self-publishing, which for some self-pub authors is a sign of impatience itself. Whether you're submitting to publishers directly or querying agents, this is where patience gets extra tough because you have so little control over the situation. And impatience and loss-of-control are often partners in crime. You need to have patience with the waiting game, with the form rejections, with the NRs. You need to have patience with yourself--and the confidence to know that a handful of rejections isn't a sign that your manuscript is sheer crap and you might as well give up here. Finally, you need patience with the concept that some agent responses may send you back to the revision stage (and to understand that this is a GOOD thing.)
If you go the agent route, there's even less control from that point forward, which means, yeah, you need more patience for dealing with that. And a lot of that I'm just learning about now, so I'd love for you guys to throw your insights down below in the comments as to how impatience can hurt you (and how patience can help you) while being on sub and post contract.
For now, let's talk about how you get patience if you don't have it. How can you develop what some people might argue is a personality trait? Here are some things that have helped me so far, and again I'd love to hear what's helped you.
1. First and foremost remember that traditional publishing is SLOW. The biggest lesson I learned pre-agent is that no one else is rushing around here, so I shouldn't be either. Agents would rather have your words right than fast, and if they're not right, it can cost you, so it's worth taking the time you need to dot your eyes. (See what I did there? If you didn't, maybe you're rushing through this post!) ;P
2. Get support and rely on it. The online writing community kicks ass when it comes to support. There are always writers willing to provide you feedback or give you a pep-talk if you need it. Find them. I don't know what I'd do without the mentors and critique partners I've had to talk me down and put me in my place so far. Listen to your fellow writers, especially when you feel just totally sick of it all and ready to smash your CPU to smithereens.
3. Check your ego at the proverbial door. A big part of impatience is defensiveness. It's why writers quit writing after a handful of queries or negative critiques. You've gotta take your ego out of it in this business or you're just going to ruin it for yourself. Arrogance will not help you get published. At least not the first time.
4. Be like Kelly Clarkson. Remember that what doesn't kill you can make you stronger if you let it. It can crush your soul and kick your ass if you let it, too. Either way, it's your call.
5. Put yourself on "The Couch" and figure out why you're impatient to begin with. This can be a scary because it means getting really honest with yourself about why you are the way you are. Are you just super enthusiastic about this particular project but patient everywhere else in your life? If so stop reading here, you're a patient writer. Congratulations. Weirdo. Are you maybe misinformed about how quickly these things happen and you think you should have a publishing contract by now? Are you a smidge arrogant and paranoid that others are trying to make YOU (and only you) wait for unfair reasons? Are you impatient because you never had to learn patience to get what you wanted growing up? Are you such a perfectionist that sometimes your expectations are unrealistic? Sometimes the things you learn when doing serious soul searching you don't like knowing. But knowing them will help you fix the problem.
6. Remind yourself of all the ways impatience can hurt you during this process. Impatience can make it seem like you don't know what the hell you're doing. It might communicate to an agent that you're not cut out for the waiting game that publishing can sometimes be. By hurrying, hurrying, hurrying, you forget to enjoy and appreciate all the little fun moments along the way. Or you might miss them altogether. Impatience communicates that your time is more important than anyone else's. It's the writer version of the kid in the back of the seat asking "Are we there yet?" every fifteen seconds. Nobody wants to be in the car with that kid. Not even the kid himself.
7. Pretend you're an alcoholic. And no, I don't mean binge drinking yourself into a Hemingway impression. But the Serenity Prayer is a pretty good mantra for anyone who lacks patience, whether you use it as a prayer or a reminder not to go all Buffy the Manuscript Slayer on your WIP.
Okay, now it's your turn. What have writing and publishing taught you about patience? What are the skills you use to increase your patience?
Dannie Morin is an author, blogger, and freelance editor. She's currently contemplating seeking help for her social media addiction. In the meantime, you can find her on Blogger, Facebook, Goodreads, & Twitter. If you've got suggestions for a future All the Feels post, contact Dannie via the contact form on her blog. She is repped by Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.