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The longer I work at this thing called writing, the more I realize how much patience it requires. When I’m forced to wait for something else to happen, I realize I’m not nearly as patient as I think I am.
While the physical act of putting the pen to paper can make you feel productive, there are times when you have to take a step back, whether of your own volition or because of circumstances. That’s when you feel at your most unproductive. Maybe you need to let a story idea simmer on the mental back burner. Or you need to let a story idea breathe a bit so it has time to sprout into something worth writing. On the business end, sometimes you need to wait for sources to return messages or that critical invoice to be paid.
So how does writing test your patience?
When the story idea is there, but you can’t work on it right away.
You have a brilliant idea and you’re eager to start writing, but you can’t because you have to finish up your current work-in-progress. Or you have work assignments or school projects that require your time and attention. As anxious as you might feel about starting a new project, you have to wait until you finish other obligations first.
When you get an idea for a story, but it needs time to develop.
You need time to figure out the conflict, character motivations, plot twists, and whether it ends happily or mysteriously. Your patience is needed to allow the idea to gestate into a more visible form before you begin writing.
When you finish your first draft.
Experts recommend that you allow several weeks to pass before you begin the editing or rewriting your draft. That time away from your work in progress allows the story to settle a bit. When you begin reading what you’ve written, you can see the story with a fresh eye and make the changes necessary to make it publishable. That in-between time, whether that’s one month or six months, is another test of your patience.
When your work is being read by beta readers.
There’s lag time while beta readers review your manuscript. So you play a waiting game, wondering if they will like your work.
Freelancers face other lessons in patience.
When there’s downtime between assignments.
Especially if you write for bi-monthly and quarterly publications, there’s often a longer lead time between assignments. You have to find a way to fill that time. It can be a test of patience, not knowing when the next assignment will come or if it will come at all.
When you must wait for people to respond to your messages.
You may have to wait for sources to return phone calls or emails so you can set up interviews or get answers to your questions. Sometimes you can wait several weeks if the person you’re trying to speak with is traveling out of the country. Zoom calls may be out of the question. It’s hard to be patient when you’ve got a deadline looming and your assignment isn’t finished because you’re still trying to reach a source.
When you need an editor’s review before you can proceed to the next step.
Once you submit the article to the editor, there’s more waiting. You have to wait for the editor’s review and approval. They may have to submit it to another person for review, so you have to wait for them as well. This phase can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. With more waiting, more patience is needed.
When you’re waiting to be paid.
The worst scenario requiring patience is waiting to be paid. Some clients can take an inordinate amount of time to pay you. I usually require 30 to 45 days for invoices, but because of the quarterly publishing dates, it has been known to take longer. Editors have their own internal protocol to follow, such as not submitting invoices from freelancers until the publication goes into production. When you’ve got bills piling up, though, that extra time to wait for payments from clients can be nerve-racking. An email or phone call to follow up may be necessary; but so is patience.
It does no good to sit at home twiddling your thumbs, however. There are things you can do to pass the time. In the meantime, you can:
* Work on individual scenes for your story idea that are clearer to you or that are more fully fledged out.
* Catch up on errands and chores that have piled up
* Catch up on reading and research in preparation for your work in progress
* Catch up on sleep, since sleep is so important to your creativity
* Make pitches to other editors to keep work assignments flowing toward you.
* Experiment with other types of writing. It’ll keep your writing fresh.
Who knew that having a writing career would require as much patience as it does?