Writing and the Art of Patience

First, a photo my friend Steph sent me of a T-shirt (or sweatshirt since it is getting into the 6 month cold season here in Minnesota) that I might have to buy (and also has no direct relevance on this post’s topic):

"In my novel, I'm plotting against you" shirt

This power could really come in handy, couldn't it?

Patience does not jump into my mind first when it comes to writing. Plot. Characters. Conflict. Craft. Art. Details. Dialogue. Flow. Theme. Message. Purpose. Audience. Those probably all enter my brain first. Then I think drafting, revising, editing, cursing, despairing… wait, what? Oh yes, of course cheering, celebrating, and smiling occur, too (and they come in spades when it is just after the cursing and despairing – so, so great).

But really, writing and the writing process require a high level of patience. There is the patience of waiting through a dry spell, a time when the ideas pause in their flow or when words won’t come together in that way you want. The infamous writer’s block. These moments are frustrating, to say the least, and can be downright painful when moments turn to days to even longer for some. I write all over the place in my stories, but I remember one section that took me a long time to get back to and finish. I could not get my brain to wrap around how to make it work. Most of the time I refused to worry about it because of the whole idea of patience. But as I got closer and closer to finishing out other sections of the novel, I found this harder to do. And yet, the story came.

The best kind of patience happens when the ideas flood your brain. Sometimes we need the patience for our fingers to catch up with our brains. Or maybe it’s the time in the day to get the ideas to the page. I know I have days where work and family consume all my time and I must realistically tell my muse to wait. I can get antsy for work and family to disappear for a little while, but I won’t complain about the overflow of ideas.

The most difficult exercise in patience? Awaiting feedback from critique readers. When I sent chunks of original draft pieces to a couple of people, it was so much easier, because I was still writing the other parts of the story. I had something to keep me busy. When I finished it all – that became much harder. And at this stage of the game, where I am on the verge of beginning the phase of querying agents, it’s a tough round of patience. I am, I think, by nature a pretty patient person. And eight days out of ten, this self-description holds. The other two days, not so much.

Waiting on critique readers gives writers a new appreciation for patience. I certainly know that my manuscript is not top priority in others’ lives. I know their lives are full and I never ever forget that they are doing me a tremendous favor. But it is still hard. [ADDENDUM: I knew I should have included this disclaimer on the first go-around… hard to wait, but I WILL wait as long as necessary. I would never actually want to rush anyone. How can I be sure of valuable feedback if I do that? Again, the payoff in useful feedback far exceeds the impatience in waiting.]

And the optimist that I am remembers that this wait, this need for patience is a good thing. It has me setting aside the manuscript and forcing me to think on something new.

Herein lies the next writer’s patience: allowing the new idea to plant a seed and grow. But I am not one that sprouts ideas right and left for stories. And my writing is much like my reading; I’m pretty much a one story at a time person. So, I had to truly let go of the novel that is out of my hands for the moment, in order to allow the new character, who has started to make a home for herself in my head, time and space to develop her story. This weekend she and her story started to blossom. It has a long way to go, but in spite of the impatience of wanting to write something, I definitely have had the patience for this. My wanting to write something did not have to be this next novel. I mean, for heaven’s sake, Ana of Throwaway Lines lived in my head for years before her story came to fruition. I have definitely known that the next novel would not magically present itself in just a few days, and I give it wide berth. There’s no rush. This next thing might not even really be the next thing. Patience. The next novel is not a blog post. It is not fanfiction. Nor flash fiction. Nor a short story. I grant it the time it needs.

The payoffs for patience are well worth it.

But I’m kind of happy that this new idea got a kick start this weekend, because I’m waiting for feedback from my critique writers, and did I mention how HARD that is?

Where, in the writing process, do you need the most patience?

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7 Responses to Writing and the Art of Patience

  1. Steph says:

    That shirt is totally you, you know… 😉

    Great theme for this post. Patience is not a virtue of mine, particularly when it comes to writing. I love writing, and it frustrates me greatly when it doesn’t flow like I want or the words won’t seem to make it to the page.

    Thanks for posting this! I’ll try to remember it when I’m banging my head against the desk in frustration!


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Well, certainly I’ve broadcasted my own impatience for those times, too! It’s a horrible feeling. Maybe on those 2 days out of the 10. 😉


  2. This is a timely post for me. I have found myself, in almost every facet of my life, having to say things like “just give it time,” or “In time, things will get better…or make sense…or…something,” on pretty much a daily basis recently. And you know what? I truly believe all those things, but patience is tough, because there really is no guarantee that what you need will come in time. Patience requires faith, and no one ever really talks about how the two go hand-in-hand. It requires a level of trust that is often uncomfortable, maybe even illogical. And that, for me at least, is the hard pard.

    I’m happy to hear about the new novel idea. I knew one would come. I have faith in you. 😉


    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Yes – faith really IS a part of it, isn’t it? And maybe that’s why I have patience in large doses… my motto, after all, really is “It’ll all work out.” I figure that whatever I’m waiting for, even if it isn’t what I think it will be, will be what it’s supposed to be – if that makes any sense.

      So, if we push things due to impatience, does this indicate a lack of faith? If I push a reader to rush, I will not likely get the results that would be best… but if I push through a writing issue, can the same be said?


      • there you go, trying to add nuance to my over-simplified statement. sigh. hmmm. i am task and results oriented, so i’d say that pushing is not a bad thing. i definitely believe in pushing oneself. i mean, faith is nothing without action, right? or perhaps that’s just my lack of faith talking.

        today’s existential crisis brought to you by: janet


  3. Laffers18 says:

    Haha, that T-Shirt is BRILLIANT! You have to buy it….you just have to 😛

    I am not a patient person (I’m sure this comes as a surprise to you 😉 ) and I admire anyone who can undertake any kind of major feat with their patience still intact. I mean, I could never have achieved what you have. Other than the one major road block (lack of talent!), I just don’t have the patience to wait for something like this to come into fruitation. I take my hat off to you! (Ok…I don’t have a hat so…I’ll take my imaginary hat off to you!)

    I just become impatient and then I wander off and do something else (because I also have the attention span of a gnat) so I end up with random bits of writing here there and everywhere. This also explains why I never get anything finished….whoops!

    Oh….and YAY on the next novel idea. I love hearing all about your writing endeavors, so I can’t wait to hear about this one too!

    P.S. Next time I’m losing patience re writing or anything else I shall try and channel my inner Janet. I’ll let you know how I get on! LOL


  4. ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

    But you know, the “wander off and do something else” can actually be a good thing, it seems to me. I’d probably have better luck if I just wandered off instead of staring at the unchanging page in frustration.

    And channeling the inner Janet? Favorite. 😉


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