My definition of patience is a willingness to let time pass without anxiety, frustration, anger or agitation. It turns out I was naive about how much time it would take me to write a good story. I never dreamed of the patience that writing a novel would demand. Several times now I’ve sent chapters off to editors or to the publisher thinking, “Well, it’s word perfect — I can’t imagine what edits she’s going to find” only to get back pages of suggestions. Most of those suggestions have made me a better writer and improved my story no matter how painful it is to accept the critiques. Accepting the critiques means yet another revision, of course — and patience in the face of wanting very much to put these initial chapters to bed.
One thing that helps me is perspective. After all, I’m only talking about creative writing. I think about friends who are coping with serious health issues and the patience they must practice — the kind of patience with which I’m growing more familiar as I get older and my knees, back and arteries give cause for concern. I think about friends with loved ones in their families who have grave illness or disease. They see their children, siblings, partners or relatives suffer and are often able to do very little about it. I know from what they’ve said that the patience required to deal with tests, results, medication changes, relapses and complications puts lessons in patience on a whole other level. I have friends in deep grief as well. I know how patient one must be with one’s self when grief is a significant part of every day. I know some of these friends feel this may be the case for them forever. And I think about my sister, her husband, and their Goldendoodle, Sunny. Because of a pet sitter’s negligence, Sunny was hit by a dump truck in September before he was even one year old. It was feared that he might lose his leg. I imagine all three of them know things about patience now that they didn’t know before their ordeal began. The good news is that Sunny is just about finished with his full recovery and is still a four-legged dog.
Here are some of my favorite thoughts from others on this topic:
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” Aristotle
“Patience is not the ability to wait. Patience is to be calm no matter what happens; constantly take action to turn it into positive growth opportunities, and have faith to believe that it will all work out in the end while you are waiting.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart.
I was given a kit to grow organic basil. Patience is going to help me once the seeds get started. It also helps me as my story evolves and my characters grow. And it always helps me with my cat. I have a lovely, plush, comfy cat bed. It took Trudy two years to decide to try it. Once she did, she fell in love with it and her daily routine revolved around sleeping in it for hours. I loved it that she loved it. Ever since we moved to Lynden last April she will not go near it no matter where I place it or what I do to it. Even smoked salmon placed strategically inside the bed did not change her mind. But maybe she will use it again some time . . . in six months? Two years? Five years? Patience, Grasshopper.