They say patience is a virtue, but in this business, it’s also a necessity. Becoming a professional author, transforming your creative calling into a viable career requires many things, including dedication, perseverance, hard work and sheer unmitigated guts. It also requires the patience of a saint…or of a writer.
Patience will keep you from rushing a story before it’s ripe, from skipping the boring parts like research and endless hours of editing, from giving up when the going gets tough and the writing gets swampy. It will keep you from sending the finished book out into the greater world before it’s ready, whether to an eager e-book buying audience or to agents and editors.
Speaking of those agents and editors? Go Veruca Salt if you like, but I want it now! will not win you any points because nobody likes a diva, and these folks have piles of manuscripts in their inbox. Yes, it’s fair to nudge an agent if they’ve been sitting on a requested submission for months, but for heaven’s sake, be polite about it. Likewise with editors at publishing houses, though at that point on the trail, it will usually be your agent doing the nudging. The general rule of thumb is they’ll get to it when they get to it and not one minute sooner, but that doesn’t mean you get to take your time when the ball is in your court. You need to get requested materials out and edits done and resubmitted in a timely way or risk losing the golden ticket – or at least your place in the queue.
Hurry up and wait.
Yes, it’s in your job description. Check the fine print. And when I said patience was a necessity, I understated. It’s a freaking life saver.
Patience will keep you from behaving badly when an editor takes months to deliver your galleys but you only have three days to turn them back around. It will keep you sane as you wait for over a year for that book you sold to finally see print. It will keep you quiet when Joe Reader, whom you’ve never met, tears you to shreds in an Amazon review, and will keep you from blowing up bridges when one of your working relationships doesn’t quite work out the way you’d hoped and planned.
Practice makes perfect, but patience makes you professional.
Cultivating it isn’t easy, but it’s more than worth it. If you hit the wall, if your patience well runs dry, turn to another professional writer for help. They’ll understand, they’ll talk you down. They’ll keep you from pushing send or post or tweet and suggest you do something better with your time and your hands – like work on a new project, or have a glass of wine and a brownie while you watch a Buffy The Vampire Slayer marathon on TV.