Creative Process

How Being Patient Improved My Writing

By August 31, 2016 19 Comments

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.

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.”

What are your thoughts on patience?

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • So now you have a calming patience which will bring your gift to fully blossom Millie! I look forward to seeing a new improved you! Hugs and blessings!

  • chrisbkm says:

    Great and insightful post Millie. Recently I read something about how time doesn’t exist when one is patient. It makes sense… and sounds like you’ve tapped into some of that.
    Yesterday I discovered the Canadian poet Phil Hall. In his book Killdeer there was poem called “Becoming a Poet”. You brought the easy wisdom of the poem immediately back to mind.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for your comment, Chris! I just finished reading “Becoming a Poet”. It’s interesting how it took Phil a number of tries over time to get that typed letter from Margaret Laurence. It seems that lives can be changed in just a moment, but it takes years getting to that moment.

  • kvennarad says:

    Patience. Must acquire some. Where can I get a crash course?

  • Steve Myers says:

    you must be getting tired of me saying this, but you’re fantastic. You’ve done it again Millie! Condensed our collective experience into one illuminating post. I think of stories as relationships and so yes, they take time and like you say, there is no race. It’s a marathon and then some. We take characters out for dinner, get to know them, take them shopping for clothes and maybe a car. We delve deeper and deeper into their psychology. We discover their motives and intentions and what not. This takes time.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for your comment, Steve! Really appreciate your take on story writing. And before the dinner, there’s an interview, and before the interview, a screening process. And more steps, on and on, before and after. Alice Munro sometimes edits her published stories 30 years after she wrote them, presenting alternative scenarios and endings, sometimes even aging and changing her characters. It’s a never ending process.

      • Steve Myers says:

        I’m glad you like my take Millie. I think of it as a cure for loneliness, to go hang out with my characters. The bummer part is that they don’t always let me into their lives. That’s frustrating. I guess that’s the writers block.

  • Looks like part of your writing journey is learning about how you need to write to be successful and reach your goals. You gave me more to think about in where I’m at in my journey and how patience will definitely help me feel better about where I am and where I am going. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Will be fun to see where your writing takes you

  • I’m guilty and trying to acquire more artistic patience as well. Well done. The last quote sends it home.

  • Really well written.It indeed brings out the lack of nerve in every upcoming writer.Patience if garnered can prove its effectiveness in the results subsequently. I learned one more trick of the trade today.Thanks to you.Its my turn now to put the idea into practice and reap some fruits.Thanks again.
    An aspiring creative writer

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for your comment! I’m happy you got something out of this blog post. 🙂

      • Thanks Millie,its been worth the read and I am aking all I can.I am a beginner and would love if you could find some time and read my attempts and help me raise the bars.Avid writers like you are the inspiration people like me look out for and will be obliged if you could spare a few moments.If you like any of the columns please do share enabling more people to read and guide.Thanking you in anticipation
        Regards

  • ” “You should focus on X instead, because X makes money”. ”

    So funny. Was this your mother? I ask because it sounds like something my mother would have said.

    Which literary magazines did you submit to? I need to get on that. I just find it so overwhelming and time consuming that I’d rather just write.

    Speaking of patience, I seem to be have a lot of it…or so it seems. I don’t get discouraged by the amount of time it takes, I don’t have this feeling that I need to rush to get it published. My lack of drive to publish is almost scary. I wonder if I just don’t want to finish my novel because then I’d have to figure out what to do with it.

    • Millie Ho says:

      It was my mother when I was younger, though she stopped saying it when she saw how obsessed with writing I still am. I still get the occasional jab here and there, but I’ve learned to ignore it.

      Oh man, I submitted to a bunch of magazines: 100 Word Story, Word Riot, Cicada, Cosmonauts Avenue, Joyland Magazine, Gone Lawn Journal and a few others I have on a list somewhere. Definitely submit! It’s a great learning experience and sometimes you get helpful feedback.

      I also wonder what I’ll do with my novel once I finish it, though now all I can think of is revise, revise, revise. Not sure if this relates to you, but once I thought of all the revising I would have to do, my urge to write shot up, because I realize now just how far I am to actual completion.

      • Thanks for the submission list! I’ll have to check those out.

        I know exactly what you mean about revise, revise, revise. I feel like it’s an infinite task, which I’m actually happy about. I can’t wait to get to the point where I’m looking at every sentence and thinking, “Is this syntax appropriate? Did I stray from the voice? Is this word necessary?” I love that stuff.

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