Patience…It’s more than a virtue.
It was about three years ago that I commented to my mother, “I’ve been praying for patience a lot lately.” My boys were three and six and I remember those ages as being particularly difficult. My mom looked at me for a moment and then said, “Be careful praying for that virtue. It’s not one God can just give. It’s one that has to be learned.”
It was right after that that I got the urge to write. Write for publication; write professionally. And, now, looking back at that time, I can see how prophetic my mother’s words were. Over the last three years, I’ve had more learning opportunities than I can count. Let’s face it, this is a profession where the virtue patience is critical. And I expected that after reading countless blogs and tweets from authors. What I didn’t expect was to discover it’s also an art form.
You see, the trick to patience—for me at least—is how well I can fake it. That’s right, three years in and I’m still not a patient person. True, I don’t check my e-mail the minute, day, week, or even month after I submit now. But after three months I start hitting refresh on my inbox more than once a day. And, as I approach four months, I hit that refresh button more than once an hour.
One thing I’ve discovered that helps me fake it is distraction. Working on my next story keeps me distracted for the first couple months. But after that doubt start to set in. What if my story sucked? What if I really can’t write? And then I freeze up so I have to find some other distraction. That’s when I pick up a good (or even bad) book…or ten.
Reading is my salvation when the months drag on. Not only is it an escape from the constant pressure of waiting, it also helps me refine my art. Where I used to put a book down if it didn’t grab my attention, now I force myself to carry on until I can put my finger on what it is that I don’t like about it. In a good book, I’ll read it through in one sitting and then think about the aspects I liked the most. I’ve discovered that sometimes stellar dialog is enough to carry a predictable plot (for me at least) and that other times it’s the action and unexpected plot twists that made the book for me.
So there you have it, my greatest secret to faking patience: Grabbing a book. I’m sure there are those people out there who truly have mastered the virtue and art form that is patience. Maybe someday I’ll be one of them. Maybe there will come a day where I shrug and figure the e-mail will get here when it gets here. Though…now that I’m imagining it…I’m not sure I want to be that complacent about my writing.
What about you? Are you a naturally patient person or do you have to fake it from time to time? Are there tips or secrets to patience you’ve learned along the way? I’d love to hear about them.