Whether we’re talking about the virtue or the Guns n’ Roses song, patience is helpful. Yet when it comes to writing, few of us are able to be truly patient.
I know I’m not. I don’t like the traditionally slow ramp up most writers experience. You have to build a following by writing a lot of stuff that won’t be read, yet you must continue to do it over and over until you make a career out of it. That’s not easy.
However, this is something almost all writers experience. And in today’s article, I’d like to go over several ways to stay patient with our writing objectives.
Start with Reasonable Expectations
One reason writers lose patience is that they expect too much. We’ve all done it. It’s when we compare our work to that of our peers, or established authors.
For example, take the literary debut of Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon. Paolini self-published the earliest drafts of his book and sold a handful, but not many. Then, by one wild stroke of luck, writer Carl Hiaasen’s stepson discovered it in a bookstore and showed it to his stepfather. Hiaasen passed the manuscript off to his publisher, Knopf, and they subsequently published Eragon to a huge commercial payout. All this happened before Paolini turned 20.
If we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, we might expect the same thing to happen to us. Or we might think something like this:
My book is way better than Eragon. So I’m mad my book isn’t selling millions of copies, too.
To paraphrase Yoda, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. If you’re peeved that a book you perceive as “bad” was published over your own, that’s not helping you be patient. And for the record, you might be right. Your book might very well be better than published works. But publishing and success aren’t only about quality. And if we remember that, it should help temper our expectations.
It’s tricky to devise a suggestion here that would apply to everyone, since all writers are so different. So, I suppose I won’t. I’ll just say this: recognize and accept that writing is, for the most part, a slow build. Swift ascensions happen, but not nearly as often as it might seem.
Revel in Small Victories
One contributing factor to a lack of patience is a feeling of stagnation. In other words, you might feel frustrated if you feel you’re not getting anywhere with your writing.
I’ll give you a personal example. In 2018, I published my first book. It’s called Gerald Barkley Rocks, and even though it’s quite short, it took a long time to write. I worked really hard on it, and I’m pleased with the results.
However, I was quickly disappointed by the lack of sales. It felt like only family and friends bought the book—which was nice, don’t get me wrong. But even though I felt like I had reasonable expectations, I was really hoping other readers might discover my book, too.
It was only later that I realized I’d missed a victory. I had published a book! Rather than revel in that small victory, I chose instead to be disappointed by a loss. Simply recognizing that fact helped me feel far better about my work. It’s helped me feel more patient, and ultimately more content with my writing.
Find Fellow Writers and Share Your Feelings
They say misery loves company. That’s probably a little dramatic, but there’s some truth to it. If you’re feeling impatient about your writing, there are other writers out there who feel the same way. And maybe talking to them will help you feel better.
Find writers in your community, at conventions, or on social media. Once you’ve built a rapport with them, broach the subject of patience. Ask them for tips on staying positive, especially when it feels like no one notices your work or you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like. You might even find you have good advice to give in return.
Patience is important, but it’s not an excuse to be inactive. If we writers want to achieve our goals, we can’t wait around for them to finish themselves—we must go out and accomplish them ourselves!
So if you work hard at your writing, I’m sure you’ll get where you want to be. You’ll just have to be patient along the way. I hope this article helps you do it.