Patience: A Virtue

When I wrote about being absolutely positively 100% sure that you were done editing your WIP before submitting to agents or uploading to Smashwords the other day, I noticed a theme cropping up in the comments: patience.

Ohh patience, you tricksy hobbitses you.

Patience does not come naturally to me, and I have a sneaking suspicion (correct me if I’m wrong) it doesn’t come naturally to many of us. Most people aren’t born with a large dose of patience (although some are blessed with more than others); it’s something we learn to embrace over the course of our lives.

Don’t believe me? Look at kids. Kids are about the least patient people on the planet. And it’s understandable; they’re kids. We don’t expect them to be patient. What about the elderly? As a whole, much more patient. Now of course, I’m making broad generalizations. I’m fully aware there are some patient kids out there and I’ve met some rather impatient senior citizens, but in general, patience is something we develop as we get older.

At least it was.

Nowadays we’re becoming accustomed to everything happening now. We have instant streaming online, music we can download in seconds, internet connections that (when working properly) get us from page to page within the blink of an eye, books we can download in minutes, on-demand movies available at our fingertips, now, now, now!

Not only that, but things are getting faster.

Ten years ago if a webpage took a minute or two to load, no one threw a fit about it. If downloads took five or ten minutes, we’d groan a little, but it wasn’t a big deal. Not so much today. Unless you’re downloading something HUGENORMOUS (like, say, Mac OS Lion?) we expect downloads to take a few minutes tops. Anything beyond three minutes is taking too long.

Technology is teaching us it’s ok to be impatient. It’s conditioning us to on-demand, to instant results. And I’m certainly not complaining about it, I like instant streaming and quickly loaded pages and speedy downloads.

The problem arises when people apply the expectation of now to other parts of their lives. Like writing. Writing is not a now industry. Writing takes time, editing takes time, and up until recently, publishing took time.

But once again, technology stepped in and told us it’s ok to be impatient. It gave us e-book publishing and offered us the gleaming red apple of now. You can get published now, it said. See? It’s easy! Just upload and press this button and voila! You’re a published author!

This is where traditional publishers are starting to run into problems. Why wait two years to get published when you could have your e-book up tomorrow?

So it’s true that publishing doesn’t necessarily have to take time anymore, but writing still does.

Repeat after me: writing takes time. Let me add to that, writing takes time and it always will. It doesn’t matter how quickly you can upload to Kindle or Smashwords or wherever you want to e-publish your book. Technology is getting faster, yes, but we aren't.

Here’s an important distinction: speed in technology = productivity; speed in humans = sloppy.

We can only work so quickly before we start to lose quality. We’re not computers guys, we’re only human. We need to take time in our writing, and we need to take more time in our editing.

Here’s a confession: I am currently working on a WIP that I’ve been slaving over for going on two years now. Granted I took a six month break, but that’s 18 months of writing, of editing, of re-writing, of re-writing, of gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair and REWRITING AGAIN.

Is it done yet? Nope. I’ll probably be re-writing it at least one more time. At least.

I know not everyone will take as long as I do, and that’s ok. Everyone is different; some people will take longer, some will whip out a fully polished manuscript or two a year like a machine. And that’s ok, too.

Guys, it’s entirely possible to get a first draft down quickly. But editing. Editing isn’t like that. You need to take time between edits to see your manuscript with fresh eyes. You need to let betas read it, critique partners rip it apart, then you need to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until it glows like the Eiffel tower at night (which, if you've never seen it, is very pretty and glowy).

So does writing require patience? Not always. But good writing does.

And it always will.

Have you struggled with patience in your writing? Tell me about it in the comments below! 

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