Patience is a virtue, or so I’m told. I have to admit, I don’t have as much first-hand knowledge of this as perhaps I should. But like writing, life is a process, and as I continue pondering and acting upon my plans for 2017, I’ve decided to see how the other half (or whatever the percentage of patient people is) lives.
I should be clear: in my experience, impatience is not always a sin. It can be a driver and a motivator. It can ensure All the Things get done in a timely manner, something which was of the utmost importance in the strict deadline-driven professional world I used to inhabit. In fact, it is probably my impatience with my own work pace and quality, and (sometimes) that of others, that pushed me toward efficiency and higher-quality output. It made me really, really good at what I did.
And then I burned out.Impatience and its aftermath weren’t the only causes of my burn-out, but they certainly didn’t help. And while I can still turn some amount of over-eagerness and painfully high expectations into productivity, I also have to come to terms with the cost of that approach. It’s like using magic in your fantasy story. At some point, someone’s going to have to pay for that s&*t.
So for my foray into patience, I thought I’d start local. I’ll start with practicing patience with myself. I’ve even gone so far as to put a small, neon pink sticky note on my computer with the word Self-Patience in bold black print. My focus will be on patience for the words to come. Patience for the story to gel. Patience for the characters to develop and react in ways that are unique to them. Patience for the wisdom necessary for story revisions to grow with each pass through a manuscript.
What’s the plan for making this work? (Because if you’ve read even a few of my posts, you probably already know I have a plan.) I’m going to tie it all back to intention, and to daily word count, discovery, or revision goals. As I have in the past, I’m going to set daily expectations for myself. But I’m also setting aside time at the end of each day to review my progress or lack thereof. If I’ve reached my daily goal, I’m going to write down some thoughts about what worked well that day.
What if I haven’t reached my goal? After all, these will be the hard days, the days when I’ll want to stamp my impatient foot and chastise my creative self. Developing self-patience is going to take time, so while I wait for the day it becomes second nature to me (hint: never), I’ll follow some de-escalating steps.
- Step back and observe, asking myself where I got tripped up or went off-plan or felt stymied. Write down those thoughts.
- If possible, come up with ideas for getting past those problems when doing the next day’s work. Write those ideas.
- Take some deep breaths to calm my inner critic. Lots of evidence points to the conclusion that breathing helps.
- Follow guided meditations on patience. When I can’t trust my own voice to preach patience, I’ll listen to someone else’s.
That’s it. Five to ten minutes per day to develop some self-patience. This might even ripple out to other areas of my life, like developing patience for my husband when he interrupts my writing time, whether intentionally (‘I need attention right now!’), or unintentionally (‘I didn’t know you had music turned off so you could concentrate’). Or when waiting in a checkout line behind that person with a checkbook and no pen, and the clerk with no idea how to take a physical check in this digital age. Or when waiting in long lines of traffic while rubber-neckers strain to see what’s happening on the other side of the highway. Or…
Ah, who am I kidding. I doubt I’ll ever be a paragon of any virtue, and I can almost guarantee I’ll never develop the patience of Job. Let’s just start with patience for the writing and see how that turns out.
Are you virtuous? Patient, at least? Any tips for an unreformed and up-’til-now unapologetic impatient soul?