by Millie Ho
This year, I really started to work on improving my patience as a writer. I realized that most of my writing problems were psychological instead of technical, and at the core of all of these problems was a lack of patience.
In the last couple of months, my writing output, approach, and results have improved because I learned to be more patient. Below is a summary of my findings (I go into more detail in the video).
REASONS WHY I WAS IMPATIENT
1. NEEDING INSTANT GRATIFICATION.
This is conditioning from the hyper-connected world we live in. We want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. I had let my expectations of writing be influenced by how quickly I had my other needs met, when writing is nothing like Amazon’s same-day delivery, for example.
2. FALSE IDEAS ABOUT WRITING SUCCESS FROM THE MEDIA.
When you see a published author, you only see the final product. You don’t see the years of mundane and frustrating work that they put into it. Because I didn’t see them struggling with their manuscripts, I felt impatient and also inadequate because I was comparing their final product with my work-in-progress.
3. LISTENING TO NON-WRITERS TALK ABOUT WRITING.
Loved ones who don’t write will give you advice about how you should a) write your book or b) how you should stop writing your book. Questions I got a lot was “If you’re so passionate and hard-working, why aren’t you published yet?” or “You should focus on X instead, because X makes money”. What I should’ve done was tune out their voices and go at my own pace.
These factors have been subtly influencing me until early this year, when I understood myself better and started making some changes. I’ve been practicing being more patient for 4-5 months now, and the results are becoming more noticeable.
[Related: Should I Be Writing Faster? ]
HOW BEING MORE PATIENT IMPROVED MY WRITING
1. FEELING LESS DISAPPOINTED (AND THEREFORE WORKING HARDER).
Because I now saw myself trying to improve as a writer for the rest of my life, it was a load off my mind. I felt less frustrated because I realized I had all this time left to grow. I learned that writing every day, re-writing, and the occasional failure and rejection slip just came with the territory. As a result, I wrote more, even submitted these stories to literary magazines (something I never did), and 3 out of the 10 places I submitted to accepted me. This would never have happened if I was impatient.
2. WRITING MORE HONESTLY.
I discovered that my Long-Suffering Manuscript was broken because it was written at a time when I wasn’t 100% writing what I wanted to write. But I no longer felt like I needed to stick with it because I put so much time into it and/or needed to get published ASAP. In April, I started writing a new novel that was more authentic and fulfilling, and used all the learnings from the LSM to write this book. I am now revising Draft 3 and am writing more like myself.
3. USING SUCCESS STORIES TO INSPIRE ME—NOT PUT ME DOWN.
I don’t feel inadequate anymore when I read a book by the many authors I admire. I now understand that it took a lot of long nights, re-writing, labour hours, and hair-pulling to get to where they arrived. Therefore, I use their success to inspire me and show me what’s possible if I do the work as well. They were patient and didn’t give up—I can be like that, too.
WRITING IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
This year, I learned how true this is. I can’t expect things to happen quickly or the way I want. I should only focus on controlling what I can control, which is writing and re-writing. I like what Aristotle said about patience:
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
Guest post contributed by Millie Ho. Millie is a writer and illustrator from Toronto, Canada. She uses her blog and YouTube channel to document what she’s learned about writing from both the writing process and from books, TV shows, and films.