If you’ve been writing seriously for any amount of time, you probably know all the standard rules of technique: show don’t tell, write what you know, blah blah blah. But if you really want to survive as a writer—mentally and emotionally—there’s one element of your craft that you need to get in the best possible shape.
I say “waiting” instead of “patience,” because it doesn’t matter whether you’re patient or impatient. You’ll be waiting.
I started my professional career as a journalist, so I didn’t have a lot of waiting practice. The newspaper cycle was fairly simple: You write something, it appears on such-and-such day. Usually the next day or the next week. I’m sure (or hope) the time span has shortened considerably as regional newspapers catch up to the Internet. Nonetheless, waiting isn’t the name of the game in journalism.
Not so if you write creatively.
Here are all the ways you’ll be waiting in the wonderful writing world of fiction:
- If you write short stories, as I do, you’ll be waiting to hear back from the editors. Many of them get hundreds of submissions per quarter (some even hundreds per month), and yours is just another short story in the stack that needs to be read.
- If your short story gets accepted, you’ll be waiting for its release. Many of these lit mags only publish a few times a year, so the wait will be long. I had a story accepted in January that will appear in June. Sound like a long time? Not really. I once waited over two years to see one of my short stories in print.
- Let’s say you wrote a book, you don’t want to self-publish, and you want to get an agent. That’s a lot of waiting. First you have to research all the agents that will make a good fit, then you have to query them and wait.
- Some might ask to read some or all of your manuscript. More waiting.
- Bravo! You have an agent. Guess what? You have to wait to go on submission.
- And when you do, more waiting to hear from the editors. If none of them bite, this cycle starts again.
- [Let’s say you wrote a book, you don’t want to self-publish, and you don’t want to get an agent. Don’t think you’re home-free on the waiting. Now you have to submit the book yourself and wait for the editor to get back to you. And let’s say you wrote a book, you want to self-publish, and you want to do it right. Still not home free. Now you’ve got to get a copyeditor, awesome cover art, and plan your marketing strategy. More waiting.]
- Bravo! An editor wants your manuscript! Get ready for the worst waiting of all: Waiting for your a) check, b) release date, c) cover art, d) copyedits, e) actual release.
I think you get my point. It’s a simple one, really. Writing is an exercise in waiting.
The good news? It’s worth it.