Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was just a young thing, caught in the throes of pre-adolescent angst, I lost it. I don’t remember what brought the tantrum on, but I distinctly remember throwing myself on the faded pea-green shag carpet of our hall staircase and bursting into tears of frustration. My wailing was interrupted as my great-uncle Peter walked by and asked, “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“I’m just so sick and tired of being a kid!” I bawled. “I can’t wait to be a grown-up!”
I think that was the first time I realized I have a problem with patience.
I would like to find whoever was the first person to say “Patience is a virtue” and punch them in the nose. Patience is not a virtue. It is a giant, festering pain in the ass that we all have to somehow pretend to develop to keep us from screaming like a child when the things that we want in life take their own sweet time to materialize.
Life is about waiting. It just is. You have to wait to grow up, you have to wait to go downstairs on Christmas morning to open your presents, and you have to wait for the right man or woman to come along before committing yourself for life. If you don’t wait for any of those things then you find yourself in a world of hurt down the road.
Yes, I have a problem with patience. And here I am trying to be a writer. *smacks forehead*
More than any profession that I can think of, writing takes patience. Sure, you have to have patience to complete years and years of medical school and a residency to become a doctor. You have to wait nine months to become a parent. But with those things and many others like them there is a definite end-date. You know when you’re going to get results. That’s probably why I’ve always liked school so much. You know when the end of the term is and what you have to do to get there.
As a writer, there are no end-dates. There are no guarantees of success. I have a vague idea of when I’m going to finish writing my latest novel, but I have no clue how many revisions it will take to get it right or what my editor will say when she gets ahold of it. I have deadlines but I don’t know what the end will be.
When people ask me how the writing is going I like to tell them that I’m doing okay for an Indie author, but I haven’t “hit” yet. Oh my gosh, when am I going to hit! Gah! There’s nothing like the torture of checking Amazon every thirty minutes to see if anyone has bought my books yet. The torture of tracking my ranking and wondering when Smashwords will report my sales from the outfits it’s distributed to is acute.
Authors have to be patient. The publishing industry in all its incarnations moves very, very slowly. You have to be patient when you send a query to an agent as you wait to hear back from them. You have to be patient when you start getting piles of rejections and as you wait for the agent for whom things will click. You have to be patient when that agent goes looking for a publisher. And yes, you guessed it, you have to be patient when that publisher buys the book and takes their time printing it and getting it in bookstores.
We’re not used to being patient in the modern world. We live in a world of instant. Ten years ago you could have mentioned things like instant coffee, instant oatmeal, and instant lemonade. Today it’s information that is instant. You want to know something, it’s there. Entertainment is instant. Everything is on demand.
What a strange delusion we have built for ourselves! Life is not on demand. It is as slow as the changing seasons. It’s no wonder that so many children are diagnosed with ADD or so many young adults have a hard time adjusting to life after school. It’s no wonder there is so much road-rage and such loud opinions being expressed across the Internet about politics and economics. We are a people who wants to see things happen the way we want them to NOW!
Think of it like photography. Once you had to be patient. You snapped some pictures, removed the film, took it to the drug store, had it developed, and got the prints back. Then there were Polaroid cameras. Instant pictures! Except that you had to wait for them to develop. Then there were digital cameras. Take a picture, upload it onto your computer, and voila! Now? Digital cameras in our phones. I took a picture of a shirt while I was out shopping today and instantly sent it to my best friend.
There is no room for patience in this world. Is it any surprise that I get depressed about not being the next Nora Roberts every couple of weeks? Um, reality check, Merry. You have been published for less than a year and you were not traditionally published before you self-published. Platforms take time to build. Readers take time to find books. Time heals all wounds.
So everyone, all of you writers trying to make it and all of you 21st century people rushing to make the life you want, take a deep breath. Let us all remember the lesson of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady wins the race. Or as my dear friend Kristine learned at the end of June after more than a year of constant stressing and anticipating, your boyfriend will propose to you eventually, when the time is right.It’s not just me, is it? What are you crazy-nuts impatient over?