Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Art of Patience

While walking around my neighborhood today I passed this sign which quotes Confucius. “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” It's good advice, but I especially appreciated the second half of the sign, offering a discount on wine. I thought it was a perfect message for those of us who call ourselves writers. Nothing can’t be solved by patience, persistence, and wine. 

One thing we’ve learned the past few years is that the hardest thing about writing isn’t the writing itself. Sure, it’s hard to sit down at stare at an empty word file, or struggle with plotting and revising.

But writing is active, so it’s easy to get caught up in all the things that you can do to make it better, to grow as a writer. You feel like you’re working toward something as long as you have tasks to do.

To my mind, the absolute hardest thing is waiting.

When you finish a draft, you wait for feedback, unsure if your CPs will love it or hate it. Then you revise, send queries, revise those queries, and wait some more. Then maybe you’re lucky and you sign with a lovely agent. As excited as you both are to work together, you still need to graciously wait for him or her to find time to read your work and provide more feedback. After all, chances are that your agent has other clients.
And then you go on submission and the real waiting begins. Here is where you have to be a waiting ninja, a patience guru. And it’s hard. Really hard.

When you are waiting on queries and you get a rejection, you can just send out a new, sparkly query. You can send out ten of them at a time. You’re actively contributing to your own career.

But while you are on sub, you’re not following up with more agents or editors. You’re trusting your super competent, knowledgeable agent to do that for you. 

So here’s what you can do to help.

Write something else. It does make the time go by faster. 

You can binge watch Parks and Rec. Well, that helped me. 

Read a lot in your genre or another genre. You never know what the next project will be. You may even fall more in love with it than your current project.

Take up another hobby.  Maybe your tap dancing lessons will clear your mind and lead to a great idea about a group of tap dancing grannies. You never know. 

What not to do:

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. We all have friends that signed with an agent after writing for three months, and sold a book after two weeks. That’s the exception, not the norm.

J.K. Rowling was turned down all over town before finally selling Harry Potter. I think we can agree that things worked out pretty well for her, right?

Don’t give up. I was recently at BookCon and a debut novelist said her book was not her first, second, or even third novel. It was her fourth, and she was thrilled that it worked out that way because even though it took 7 years from that first blank page to publication date, she was sure that it was meant to be her debut.

In the meantime, there is always wine.