Patience. Oh no, not that! I hate to talk about patience. It frustrates me just to even think about the word. Besides, I have to write. Don’t bother me, I’m busy!
However, the blank screen stares back at you in the quiet rush of the cooling fan on your computer. The cursor taunts you, dares you to write another word. Your organized thoughts march right out of your mind and step blindly over the edge of your memory into oblivion.
Frustration boils up and the writing stops, if it ever started at all. You walk away in a riot of emotions, none of which promote writing anything. It happens at any stage of your work–beginning, middle, or end. How do you deal with it in your own writing?
Patience – Just the Facts, Ma’am
Before you go any further in this look at patience, why you need it, and how you can get it, let’s start with deciding exactly what it is.
If you check out Dictionary.com you will find a good definition. I urge you to click the link and read all about it.
However, I have a copy of the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition at my desk. It is an excellent source of information and many times offers a bit deeper value than its modern cohorts. The copyright on this volume is 1939, by the way.
Under the word patient the following definition is given: Exercising forbearance under provocation. Expectant with calmness or without discontent; also, undisturbed by obstacles, delays, failures, etc.; persevering; able to bear strain, stress, etc.
Much humor has always floated around the subject of patience, I suspect mainly because it is such a common “demon” to all mankind. Here are a couple great examples of this.
All good things arrive unto them that wait–and don’t die in the meantime. ~Mark Twain
I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end. ~Margaret Thatcher
The thing about humor is that it usually has a little piece of truth tucked in there somewhere. You can see it here in the lives of this man and woman from different times dealing with the same dilemma.
Patience…and a Writer?
At first glance you might think that’s an oxymoron, but let’s talk practical application here. First of all, patience is not a feeling, but a learned skill. It is how you react or respond to what’s going on around you while you’re trying to write.
Since emotions are not the root of patience, that should be good news to you! Why? Because you can learn it in the same way you learn other skills and crafts–by practice. When the distractions come, when the blocks to your thinking stop you in your tracks, when frustration rises and you are tempted to get angry and stressed, THAT’S the time to practice this powerful skill.
Impatience very often is the result of something not meeting your expectations. It doesn’t matter whether or not your expectation are realistic. You just expect things to go a certain way. When they don’t follow your plan, your creative train easily derails.
This is why I spend so much time and effort on helping you to gain mastery over the basics parts of the writing process (check out the 6-part series). Setting up a writing project with structure, planning, and forethought builds a track for your writing train to run on as you go.
With effective strategy in place for your writing, that impatient voice that jabbers in your head trying to discourage you becomes subdued. You may not silence it completely, but you can certainly bring it to a much lower tone, one that doesn’t force you to believe everything it says.
Here’s just one example of how effective strategy helps exercise patience. (That voice sometimes has a huge array of junk to hurl against your creativity.) In this example, let’s look at having a writing schedule based on realistic goals.
Let’s say you have a writing project of any size–anywhere from small to large, a blog post to the great American novel–and you have taken the time to put some project goals and strategies in place.
In doing that, you know that your writing must be completed by a certain date. And you have taken the time to figure out how long it might take you to get that writing finished. If it’s a large project, you’ve broken it down into manageable pieces.
The other thing you have done is set a writing schedule for yourself, preferably daily, that provides you with the ongoing, consistent, quality time to write. In that plan you built in a cushion of time because you know you live in the real world and life happens–every day!
Therefore, when you sit down to write one day and feel totally void of inspiration, you rise above the panic that screeches from that inner voice we’ve been talking about. You tell it to shut up because you know you are not running out of time. The impatience slides off like water from a duck’s back.
In this way, your patience empowers you to stay on track rather than leap off the side of the cliff into anger, frustration, fear, and all those other negative trappings meant to rip the writer right out of you.
But What If…
No matter how much planning and preparing you do, the truth is that sometimes you still just don’t click with what you need to do. Be gentle with yourself and resist the temptation to fly off the handle in impatience. That’s how you exercise that dynamic power of patience. It is a choice. Take a step back, regroup, and settle down.
There just might be that time when you’ve done everything right. You’ve planned ahead and kept to your schedule. But you underestimated the amount of research you needed to do. Or maybe you had an unexpected something happen that required your attention. Life does happen and you don’t have control over all of it.
So there you sit on a deadline with an unfinished piece of writing before you. And all you can see or feel is that sense that you’re not going to make it. Impatience and panic often run together holding hands and screaming in your ears. What do you do?
Hold fast to patience and keep yourself from running headlong down the rabbit hole of fear and frustration. It’s time to take a step back. Take a look at your project. Where can you change up the plan a bit? Can a deadline be moved? What can you do to free up some additional time in order to hit an unmovable deadline?
Patience stays productive even when it hurts or when it feels like you’re not producing anything. It keeps you moving forward. Sometimes you muscle your way through and the writing comes. At other times you adjust the deadlines or the writing schedules.
By adapting yourself and your project to the issues you are encountering, you are maintaining a calm state of mind, not going off in all directions or sitting before your computer screen just blowing up into nothingness.
Patience – A Recap
To boil it all down into a simple reality, these are the basic benefits of patience for you as a writer:
- Stable focus
- Peace of mind
- Continuing flow of writing
- Lack of emotional upheaval
- Keeping on track with the project
There are many more, too numerous to tackle here. Think about your own situation. How much more could you accomplish with patience added to your list of skills? It is interesting to see how much a writer changes when I bring them to a place of calming down and entering into patience. The vast majority of times it’s a short hike back to productive writing.
By the same token, a lack of patience produces a list of less-than-useful effects:
- Emotional upheaval–anger, frustration, fear
- Blurred “vision” regarding the project at hand
- Potential to stop your writing in part or in total
- Negatively affects the writing flow
- Risks project failure–you never finish, if you even start
Patience Is Your Friend
In conclusion, I encourage you to take a look at this element of patience in your own life and writing practice. How patient or impatient are you? Be real.
What tends to set you off course? Influence from others or something of your own making? Identifying the barriers to your patience takes you miles down the road of walking in a calm mindset and writing your dream.
It’s your project. Commit to it. Determine to write what you set out to write and to do so with patience and a plan. Give yourself room to be a real person…and still write. And above all, don’t stop. Keep working at your writing, every aspect of it. It is worth it in the end to press through your roadblocks and get your story or message into printed words that others may read and grow from.
I trust this post helps you in your writing endeavors. Look for The Write Turn podcasts to begin later this month. I’m excited to bring them to you and I’m working as hard and fast as I can!
As always, thank you & God Bless!