Tuesday, May 10

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 23 comments
Waiting. It's a huge piece of what it is to be human. We wait for the weather to change. We wait for payday or that insurance reimbursement. We wait for decisions to be made, calls to be returned, packages to arrive and all sorts of mundane things that somehow just don't happen instantly.

Writing has its own set of waiting hurdles. We wait for our skill level to improve. We wait for the perfect character name to dawn on us. We wait for the shiny new idea. We wait for solutions to plot holes to occur to us. We wait for critique partners to give feedback. We wait for our market savvy to increase. We wait for agents, editors, reviewers, royalty statements, etc., etc., etc.

My faith tradition ties waiting to one of the "abiding things" along with faith and love: hope. "If we hope for what we do not have," says Romans 8:25, "we wait for it patiently."

Personally, I struggle a lot with hope. It's a heck of a lot easier to despair. No real effort or waiting required. Indeed despair can be yours right now with no wait! Not much of a selling point though, is it? Anyway, I've come to grasp the fact that waiting in a state of hopelessness is actually a kind of impatience--one that immobilizes.

We tend to think of patience as a very passive virtue that requires idle serenity. But the serenity that comes from patience is actually quite active. The patient mind works hard hoping. It refuses to moan or flail around. It keeps a steady routine and doesn't lose sight of the thing hoped for. Patience is diligent (not slothful), continuing to find places to progress during times of waiting.

Let's encourage one another to take up the tools of patience when we're on this wait-filled journey. Here are some I can think of:

~limit "stalking" behaviors online (those aimless hops from post to tweet to status without ever interacting); instead use social media to meet friends and encourage others. Take social media breaks when necessary.

~limit slothful habits (TV, video games and the like); instead produce pages of something every day--drafts, research, notes and outlines, wordplay, journal entries.

~experiment with a new technique, genre, style, POV, verb tense.

~focus on learning--study craft books, attend seminars, research new ideas.

~critique others' work and learn from them.

~read widely and make notes about what other authors do that you can emulate.

I could go on an on about all the active ways to wait--there are so many! The key ingredients are progressing toward a goal because you believe with hope that something good will eventually come of it.

What impatient habits or "habits of despair" do you struggle with? What habits of hopeful patience might you try?


  1. I love this Laurel. Patience is a virtue, one that I so often lack and wish that I had more of. This is especially true with my children. But then, that's an entirely different topic, isn't it?

  2. Ooh! Excellent post, Laurel!

    I'm not going to confess what kinds of impatience I'm guilty of, btw. Methinks you already know. :)

  3. This is exactly what I needed to read today, Laurel. You have such a talent for putting thoughts into words. I'm trying to limit the online stalking and increasing the amount of time I devote to my craft. I love what you said about patience being seen as a passive virtue. Its strength is too often undermined!

  4. Angela: Seeing how patience is tied to hope can help with parenting struggles, too. Thinking of the kinds of people you believe your children can grow into can really, really help your interactions now.

    Simon: As usual, this is one of those "pep talks with myself" that I decided to share. I'm realizing that the extremes of working onesself into the ground, followed by periods of intertia is a bad pattern. Better to be the tortoise than the hare.

    Saumya: Over and over I see hope and patience and faithfulness intertwined in scripture. In other words, waiting patiently involves steadiness of purpose and belief that in time good results will come. Despair sucks away that motivation, as do distractions that pull us off the diligent path. Wishing you the best as you commit yourself to craft!

  5. Wonderful post - and just what I needed to hear, including that verse. I love how you said that waiting with hopelessness is really impatience. What a great list of active "patient" things to do!

    You may think this silly, but I consider NaNoWriMo to be a great gift from God (at least to me personally!) It's really helped me keep producing new things, where otherwise I would have stagnated on the old things, re-writing myself into hopeless frustration.

  6. Oh, Laurel, this is so perfect for me right now. I needed this post! Those are wonderful tips. Thank you. :-)

  7. Margo: I keep thinking I need a month like NaNo to bypass my bossy internal editor, who always wants to revise and never draft. Maybe July, when the usual pressures of my hubby's professor job don't weigh on the family so much. November is usually crunch time for him, and I have to take up the slack at home.

    Shannon: glad to have encouraged you today! Slow and steady wins the race.

  8. Great tips. I try my best to keep a bright outlook, but it isn't always easy. It helps me to stay busy, and focus on what I have control over, not what I don't.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  9. waiting in a state of hopelessness is actually a kind of impatience--one that immobilizes

    That's an interesting way to look at it. I'll be mulling over the thought.

    I am very good at puttering...

  10. This is one thing that my crazy busy chaotic life helps! I'm usually too busy to worry over-much :)

  11. Angela A: It's knowing how to be steadily, productively busy that's the trick. I can find it easy to busy myself doing less than useful things.

    Y2: If hope and patience are linked, then the tie between impatience and hopelessness seems clearer--despair comes easily and instantly, while hoping requires effort.

    Jemi: Tie flies when you're dashing about madly, right? :-)

  12. Sometimes to not fall into discouragement I have to stay of writer's forum and all the good news. I love good news but sometimes I need to stay away until my mojo is back. I go back and forth. Up and down.

  13. What a great idea. Patience has never been my strength. But when I find myself acting stalkerish, I just have to get away from the computer. I clean, cook, read, whatever. Anything to take my mind off it :)

  14. I really need to stop obsessively checking my email and just get on with things!

    Great post, Lauren.

  15. I love this post, Laurel. Patience definitely requires a lot of work, and these are really great advice for them!

  16. Great post! I think you are so right, the thing to do to encourage patience is to busy ourselves with other productive pursuits. Things like starting a new WIP while you're querying a finished MS.

  17. I don't wait for craft improvements to come - I hunt them down with a steel cage and a pitchfork. :) And while I'm trying not to fall into POV pitfalls and cliche traps, I usually don't notice the time flying by while I'm waiting for those other things: critiques, queries, etc.

  18. Laura: I know just what you mean. In down times, self-care is a delicate thing.

    Sherrie: The stalkerish thing is for me a kind of loafing or procrastination. Better that I trawl for info I really need, like research for a project.

    Talli: I'm trying to discipline myself to schedule times to check certain accounts. It's so hard!

  19. Emy: Hope, patience, steadiness. It's not always easy, but it does in time yield results!

    Lisa: Thanks. The time definitely flies when we put our effort into new creative ventures.

    Susan: We're counting on you to share all your best tips! :-)

  20. AMEN AMEN AMEN! What a breath of fresh air it was to read your post Laurel! Active Patience - yes. And your ideas are all so proactivly wonderful. Active patience is really all about getting your mind off yourself, isn't it? And that action alone brings about change. Thank you. I am sharing this ...

  21. Lori: Glad this encouraged you and spurred your thinking. I definitely think hope is outward focused, looking for good on the horizon and taking steady steps toward it. We're more likely to stumble (or trip off a cliff) when we're staring at our feet the whole time.

  22. Great tips! You know, I admit to resorting to stalking while I'm waiting. Stalking agents twitter feeds, blogs, etc. Now that I have an agent, I'm wondering how painful the waiting during the submission process will be and what my new negative behavior will be. Now that I've read your post though, perhaps I'll be more aware and can stop it before it festers LOL!

  23. My comment from earlier in the week is gone (Blogger still having issues?) but I came back to let you know that I have linked my post this week to this one. Enjoy your blog - and your tips!