Virtues of a successful writer? Talent? meh, yes-ish. Thick skin? getting warmer. Education? sometimes. Humility? sure.
But more than anything else, I have come to realize, a successful writer needs patience.
This is the virtue I have most often tried to bypass in my long years of writing. Because I don’t have much of it. But it is, quite frankly the most unavoidable attribute of a writing career.
And it sucks.
I don’t think it’s just me. When an idea flares to life in the mind of a writer and spills onto the page, we cannot wait to share it with the world. It is new, it is exciting, it is burning up our souls!
But even when it is written, it is not ready. Then we need to edit. And edits take time. And patience.
And then we need to have our peers read it. Get feedback. We’re tempered by someone elses schedule. That fire starts to dwindle. Especially after weeks or months it comes back to us with notes all over it and we realize it’s still not good enough.
Here we go in several different directions.
We might put that story on the back burner. Pursue a new flame. It may be years of this process, many many finished stories, articles, manuscripts that just aren’t good enough before we feel confident enough to push forward.
We might forge ahead, edit more, rewrite, and then submit to agents, publishers, the world. And we wait. Agents can take months to respond “No” or maybe not respond at all. For the self published, a book can languish on the e-shelves of amazon, waiting for the right person to discover it.
We go back, we rewrite some more, we edit some more. We give it to more readers.
Or low and behold we get an agent!!!!!
Then we wait. We wait for the agents notes. We edit. We change. We wait. We wait for the agent to sell our book. We wait for the publishers notes. We edit. We change. We wait for the book to be published.
In the mean time, this process has taken years. YEARS. That first flame, that first novel that took a year to write has pushed you into a process that has taken at least three more years to get to the point you’re at. (It was probably closer to ten).
And it sucks. Really. Because that flame burnt so strong and so bright and so insistent and you have had to push it down again and again. You have been forced to be patient. All excitement has dried out into dust. Everything you thought “This is it!” you have been knocked down with another wait of weeks, months, years.
So why do we do this to ourselves? Why this awful exercise in the art of patience?
You already know. I already know. Learning to be patient is infuriating. But the alternative? Not writing? Not putting our work out into the world?
That is just so much worse.
Keep writing friends. Keep that flame burning, even if it just a small ember in your heart. Patience sucks, but what you have to offer the world is worth waiting for.