Blogger: Mary Keeley
I look forward to the new year, don’t you? With last year’s successes and rejections behind you, beginning anew on a clean slate is invigorating and breeds HOPE, especially when you launch with a good strategy. Today I want to focus on a key ingredient.
Agents often remind writers to be patient during the journey to representation. But it doesn’t stop there. We continue advising our clients to persevere on their journey to publication and re-publication. This isn’t only wise advice or a nice platitude intended to encourage. It’s a strategy for success.
PATIENCE IN RELATIONSHIPS
A client once let me know she was unhappy with me. I hadn’t responded to her email when I said I would, and she was feeling neglected. That cut deeply because responsiveness to clients is a high value to me. I felt awful that she felt unimportant. But I needed to be patient with her remarks because she didn’t understand that at the time she communicated, I was in the midst of 20 meetings with publishers at ICRS (now Unite) and then would be flying directly to a writers conference to teach two workshops. The pace was so fast, I didn’t enter a note on my calendar, and by the time I got back to the office, I had forgotten about responding. As much as any of us tries not to, we’re going to mess up once in a while. It’s part of being human. Thankfully, she responded in patience with me once I explained the timing.
Writers who practice patience early in their writing life and choose to view delays, discouragements, rejections…and yes, oversights…through a positive lens are preparing themselves for successful relationships. Relationships with editors, marketing and sales staff, and publishing executives when your book is contracted and in production.
It’s going to take patience on your part because undoubtedly you’ll have a disagreement here or there. Note any defensive reaction you might be having and surrender it to a spirit of patience while you give yourself time to think through the issue. Of course editors are human too, and occasionally they’re wrong. That’s when you bring your agent in to mediate difficult discussions. This preserves the good relationship you’ve created with your publishing house, which moves them to want to work with you again.
PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF
An author I know once came to the wise conclusion that she needs to be patient with herself during the writing process. Each writer has areas of the craft that are easier for him or her than others. Plotting might come easily for other authors, but it was a stickler for her. Instead of getting frustrated and tempted to give up (never a productive atmosphere in which to do one’s best writing), she’s learned to factor time into her writing schedule for brainstorming ideas and then trying each one out until she finally creates the one that works seamlessly. This part of writing is going to require her most patient, gracious energy toward herself. She said patience “will help me not give up but continue to wade through, seeking out others who are natural plotters.”
Patience is all about the grace that preserves a positive, optimistic outlook toward your work and your interactions with others. That kind of attitude creates a teachable spirit, which agents and editors look for. And it will preserve your relationships, your reputation, and love for your work. A strategy for success.
Patience keeps a steady foot on the accelerator, but impatience taps the brake.
When was the last time you needed to exercise patience in your writing life? With yourself? How did it go? Which part of the writing process is your biggest struggle?
Some things in publishing don’t change. Patience is a necessary strategy in your writing career. Click to Tweet.
Patience with the process and yourself is a foundational strategy for success in your writing life. Click to Tweet.
The last time I had to exercise patience? Yesterday, and that’s only because it is now just 5 AM.
In truth, Mary, I am generally more patient with the big plan. It’s the little stuff that pops up to annoy like a skeeter bite (“Your for you’re? Where did that come from? Stupid me. Sheesh!”)
*This children’s ditty that I taught to my AWANA Sparkies runs through my head:
Have patience. Have patience.
For God is patient too,
And think of all the others,
Who had to wait for you!
Shirlee, your comment is a great way to launch into today’s conversation. The ditty for your Sparkies reminds me of a the song Mr. Rogers sang for his young TV viewers, which begins like this:
“Be patient, be patient, don’t be in such a hurry,
When you get impatient, you only start to worry,
Remember, remember that God is patient too,
And think of all the times when others had to wait for you.”
Now this will play in the back of my mind all day, which isn’t such a bad thing really.
Shirlee, I remember that song! I sing it to my boys sometimes. 🙂 I’m with you on the little stuff. It sometimes drives me just a wee bit crazy. 🙂
Great thoughts, Mary. We see the goal, like a mountain peak…but sometimes forget that what seems to be the most direct route will land us on a narrow ledge from which forward progress is possible only for a mountain goat. And mountain goats do fall.
* If I may, here are some methods I use to develop patience. First, in relationships:
– An answer demanded an forced by impatience will generally be ‘No’; a positive response requires the respondent to make some sort of commitment in time, effort, and heart. Deciding to invest generally takes time.
– Being impatient, even once, will damage the relationship in some way. Negative impressions last, while positive ones are often taken for granted.
* For patience with oneself:
– Keep an activity log. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and a real physical organizer, with the day blocked off into 15-min blocks, will do nicely. Paper is better than digital here; there’s no need to open a new program, and no excuse NOT to do this. You’ll probably find out that you work more than you know, and thinking about how to get your protagonist-mountain-goat off that ledge does count as work.
– “Standards Set Speed” – it takes time to do quality work. As Blaise Pascal once said to a young prince whom he was tutoring, “Sire, there is no royal road to learning.”
– All woodworkers know that the grain of the material will dictate how fast one can work it. Life and writing are like this. Trying to work faster than the grain will allow only leads to a spoiled workpiece and bad language.
– If you find yourself wallowing in self-impatience, ask yourself this – “Would I treat a friend this way?” Or, perhaps, more tellingly, “Would I treat JESUS this way?” Remember that as we treat “the least of these”, so have we treated Him, and “love thy neighbour AS thyself” definitely includes us in The Least Of These.
Andrew, great thoughts. I Love the idea of an activity log. I think I may incorporate that one!
Great points and memorable quotes from you, Andrew. “Negative impressions last while positive ones are often taken for granted.” That short statement speaks volumes and is so true. It’s worth keeping handy for recall.
I am in full agreement with you on the paper organizer. Mine sits right next to my laptop, wherever my laptop goes. I need only glance at my prioritized list to see what’s next on my to-do list for the day.
And regarding self-impatience, “Would I treat a friend this way?” is a gear-changer.
Anita Mae Draper
In the past few weeks, I’ve switched back to a paper organizer for several reasons. I missed the journaling aspect of making notes in an agenda. I don’t have it segregated into home, business, and writing, but colored inks take care of that, and I get to see the big picture of what will occupy/occupied my time. It’s always open and never runs out of power. On the downside, it doesn’t have a search function, but I can live with that because searching through old agendas always makes me smile.
As for your client, it’s seems you have a good working relationship with patience on both sides. That’s one of the things potential clients will be relieved to learn. 🙂
Good thoughts, Andrew. I like the idea of the activity log.
* Over the last couple years, I believe the Lord has been me leading into the idea that “work done” isn’t always material work that I can point to as having accomplished. It’s also the idea that taking time out to help or encourage someone else, time out to go to prayer meetings or Bible studies, is a sort of work, as well as the idea of thinking on how to solve problems. I would imagine that if each one of us kept an activity log with that sort of work included, we’d find we do more than we think.
*I’ve read different accounts by people who got interrupted while doing work. They realized later that the interruptions were the real work.
Peggy, I think life is what happens to us while we’re waiting for something else.
The very hardest part of the writing process for me is feeling confident enough in the story concept to give it my life and my love. Settling on the idea … hardest part for me. The plotting and writing … I enjoy. But settling on that idea … the idea that you love so much, you’ll lend it your all. That’s where I am right now … and I’m having to be very patient with myself.
This makes sense, Shelli. It’s always risky to invest time in something we’re not sure will hit the mark, isn’t it? I guess that’s, in part, where faith comes in, right?
Shelli, you aren’t alone in that struggle, especially in the current hyper-competitive publishing market. I know you read a lot. One way to boost confidence in your idea is to research your bookstore for recent books similar to the concept you are developing. The fact they have been published shows that publishers thought the concept was marketable. You can then look up their rankings on Amazon for confirmation. Develop your concept from a different angle, free to exercise your passion.
Part of every sort of relationship, whether personal, social, or professional, is to engender good will. Impatience with others causes them to draw back. We are either opening up to someone or closing down like a hand is either opening or closing. As a teacher, I kept that image in mind with my students, they were either opening up or closing down. The classroom climate, my instruction, and the level of safety they were experiencing all contributed to this scenario. Mary, I appreciate what you have shared in this post. The other day while getting an oil change for my car, I decided to visit with another woman who was also waiting. Instead of being impatient as I waited, it became an opportunity to share life. She thanked me for talking with her. The waiting game is never fun but it has its benefits. Thank you for the reminder.
Norma, you must have been an amazing teacher! I wish I’d had your insight during my days in the classroom. 🙂 I was patient . . . most of the time. 😉
*I like your perspective on waiting. Looking for the benefits, and choosing action during the waiting. Good thoughts.
Norma, your students were blessed to have your influence in their lives. And what a great use of your waiting time. I’m sometimes preoccupied with my own thoughts, but the times I have reached out in conversation with others around me, I’ve always had a receptive response. Point taken. Who knows what God might want to do with those moments if we don’t get impatient while waiting.
Mary, what a great, encouraging post. Yes, patience. It’s much easier for me to have patience with others than with myself. God has been retraining my thoughts to give myself more grace, to accept it as His will when things don’t happen in my timing, and to accept His plans, especially when they’re different from mine. 🙂
*I’ve had to exercise patience in my writing life over the past few months. For some reason, life keeps interrupting my writing plans. As I begin to figure out how to live out my One Word for the year—Intentional—I sense He has writing as one way I’ll learn how to live intentional.
*The part of the writing process which I have been working on is learning how to weave in real emotion in my scenes. And in my characters.
“Intentional.” That is my word for the year, too, Jeanne. Mainly in terms of my time. Is that your emphasis too? Efficient and productive are sub-headings. Am I right in assuming it also involves prioritizing, possibly eliminating some things to accomplish others? Let’s keep posted on our progress.
I love that you have that word too for this year. 🙂 So far, God is showing me that my focus is relationships with God, my family and friends, my health and my writing. And yes, I think it will definitely deal with priorities. And yes, I know I’ll be praying through commitments, habits, and other ways I spend my time, and making decisions in these areas.
*But, I’m already finding God is doing some heart work before I get into the nitty gritty of living it out externally.
*I hope you’ll share what you learn about your word this year. 🙂
Constantly. I’m frustrated that it’s taken me so long to finish my WIP (which is still not done) but I look at the good Work which I’ve been called to during that time and it make sense.
I will be making an even greater change to my strategy for completion as it appears I am facing yet another job/career change that was completely out of my hands. Prayers for strength appreciated.
Praying for you, Jennifer.
Indeed, praying for strength and that this turn of events is God’s pathway to a greater blessing for you, Jennifer.
Thank you, Mary and Andrew.
I wonder if Jesus was impatient to begin His ministry, and constantly had to hear “No. Not yet.” from His Dad.
* Being fully God and fully Man, He just HAD to know “Are we there yet?”…from both sides.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
You wrote this for me, didn’t you? Because you could read my mind at 12:30am this morning, couldn’t you? When I grumbled to myself, “Jennifer, you cannot finish another 50,000 words tonight! Go. To. Bed.”
For the record, I totally could’ve written another 40,000, but my eyes kept closing.
Jennifer, here’s to passion, persistence, determination, pursuit of excellence, and oh yes, humble reality of our physical limits. I confirm that you are exercising great patience in your writing career.
Thank you for your post. The more I read the posts and comments here @ Books and Such, the more I realize I need to pray daily for grace and patience for myself. The community here teaches me it’s OK to do that.
Peggy, it’s absolutely okay, and necessary in order to keep on keeping on in the writing life. The learning and growing is never completed. So yes, be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey!
Mary, wise words. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t know the whole story, nor do we take the time and expend the effort to get it. I’ve been angry with people-who of us, if we’re honest, hasn’t. But when I put myself in their shoes, I find it hard to stay that way. This is especially true for those of us who write, since we like to think of ourselves (and our characters) as examples.Thanks for the post.
Richard, thanks for your honesty. You’ve spoken words many a writer, and agent, has thought or voiced at times. Your “putting myself in their shoes” helps to develop a good antidote.