Patience: The Writer’s Virtue

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Patience is a virtue, and it isn’t easy to come by. However, it can be the difference between a talented writer and a published author. Even if you’ve mastered the art of the comma, studied plot structure in college, and have a bevy of contacts in the publishing world, you can’t make it without patience.

Writing Isn’t Always Fun

It’s an unfortunate fact of the writing life that successful writers need a lot of discipline. They write every day, increasing their skill along with the volume of their work incrementally over time. Even creating flash fiction demands a lot of patience. Moments of inspiration don’t last, and even when you sit down to start a new project, you must acknowledge that you are making a commitment of many months, if not years, to this one piece. Getting a first draft down on paper takes patience. After all, you face human limitations of time, energy, and focus, just like the rest of humanity. You need a long-term view and daily patience to deal with your imperfections.

Redrafting in a Hurry Never Turns out Well

Editing and redrafting are two of the most feared words in a writer’s vocabulary. All the patience that goes into hacking out a rough first draft pales in comparison to the tedium of revisions. Everything you wrote comes under fresh scrutiny, usually at least three or four times. You need patience to ask yourself the big questions that transform good drafts into great novels. Do your characters follow their motivations, or are you twisting things to suit a plot that doesn’t quite fit? Have you killed off your darlings? What important moments of character development need extra attention? Do you really want to use all those semicolons?

If you don’t approach revisions with saintly amounts of patience, you will end up tired and frustrated. Worse yet, you’ll end up with a choppy, unpolished story, and after all that effort, you want some tangible returns. When you sit down to revise, remember that development takes time. It took months to write your first draft, so why should your second take any less time? Should you find yourself chomping at the bit, eager to just tie up loose ends and move on, remember that shaping up a novel is like shaping up your body. It takes a lot of painful effort. It takes a lot of patience, too.

The Drama of Publication

Finishing a book is a huge milestone, but it’s not the end of the road. Once you have a story ready, it may take years before you find the right audience or publisher to accept your work. Even self-publishing represents a time consuming endeavor that will eat up weeks at a time. Self-publishing puts additional work on your shoulders, like marketing and platform management, that won’t have an immediate payout.

Are you ready for the long haul? There’s nothing as rewarding as writing, but there’s nothing quite so challenging, either. Be ready to adopt the writer’s ultimate virtue: patience.


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  1. Jo Ann Bender on

    I’m a writer. Regarding your blog on the topic of patience. . . Patience is golden but mine is turning green. Yes, rewriting is difficult. But, so is the transition between finishing a book, then marketing the book, to jumping into beginning the next one.

    There are surprises along the way. Mine has been learning that I am the perfect writer for audio books. Two commercial publishers have liked my work, ACX and Books in Motion have produced: Lebensborn by ACX, and Rusty Springs and the newly launched Casanova Cowboy.

    Have patience if you write. Discovering your special talents is part of the journey. Never ever give up.

    • Thanks for your motivational thoughts. Keep up the good work, and awesome to hear about your success!

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