Patience Is Hard

I’ve always found it ironic that the most common requirement in life is possibly the hardest thing, at least for me. I always have so many things I need to do, and they all seem important enough that I need to get to them NOW. I’m not stupid enough to think I can do that, but I definitely suffer from a lack of patience, and I do mean suffer.

Why do I say ‘suffer’? Because it’s hard to enjoy what you’re doing when you’re rushing through it and already have half your mind on something else. It’s also very hard to focus then.

I’ve struggled with this my whole life, trying to be patient, to not jump the gun on just about everything that doesn’t happen immediately, or to wait and see the effect of something I’ve tried, rather than declare it a failure after a single day. Or hour. Yeah, I really am that kind of impatient.

The thing is that so many things take time to do. Very few things really do happen that fast and I know I’m hampering myself with this impatience, rather than helping. I don’t give myself enough time to succeed. I don’t give things enough of a chance to work before I want to give up and move on to the next thing. Obviously this isn’t a good thing.

I also tend to be wildly unfair to myself. I’m 35 and for some reason, I get it in my head that I should have done more than this by now. I doubt I’m the only one. In fact, I know I’m not because I’ve seen so many friends go through this same thing. It’s not helped when I hear some teenager got a book deal, but really, that’s beside the point. I often feel like I should be further along this path I’ve set myself on, that I’ve wasted my life up to this point.

Only I forget that the things I’ve done with my life are part of what’s made me who I am, and this person I am now is possibly the only one who could write the stories I have to tell. I build them a bit out of who I am and that’s been shaped by the things I’ve done and not done. I should value that more, but it’s hard when there are so many things I feel I need to do.

And of course, the subtle pressure of my list of story ideas really doesn’t help. And by subtle, I mean in the sense that a hurricane is subtle. Those of you who’ve looked at my Project Status page, trust me, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t added any new things to that for a while, except where they’re related to a world already on there or have a completed draft. There’s a reason for that. It would be way too long. I have EASILY 140 separate idea documents for stories that I haven’t yet written. And they’re all screaming to be explored. Worse, more come with every day.

This sounds like a good thing, but I become impatient to get through everything I’m working on to get to these damned plot bunnies. Sometimes I even lose the battle and race ahead, continually drafting new stories while the revision work piles up. That explains my current situation, come to think of it. I have to remember that all that revision to do makes me just as panicky and impatient as all the stories to write. No, I really can’t win. Was I supposed to?

I really do need to remember that it takes time to do all these things I want to, but I’m bad at that. Why? Well, part of it is the desire to share all the things with readers now, to lay out all my stories and show everyone how awesome they are. But then I have to haul myself back and remind myself that they’ll only BE awesome if I take enough time and do all the revisions.

I also have to take enough time to do the revisions right. If I rush those, then what’s the point? I’ll only start missing things, which will lead to either substandard work or having to do yet another round of revisions. It’s really hard though. I feel like I’m hauling back hard on my own reins all the time. It works, but it isn’t exactly my idea of fun either.

So what do I do when I get wrapped up in all this impatience? Mostly I take a moment to breath. A couple minutes of meditation are often enough to let a little perspective seep in. 35 isn’t that old and I probably still have many years ahead of me to write all these stories. That there are more plot bunnies hopping in every day isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not if I remember that it allows me to pick only the best of them to develop into full manuscripts.

Patience with revisions isn’t easy, but there I remind myself that it’s about making the story everything it wants to be, to fully realize the potential that was buried in the idea at the beginning. That makes it a bit easier, even when I stare at the mountain of it I need to do.

Mostly I try to remember to enjoy the journey. I’ll get to the destination only to find there’s a new destination anyway. I know this by now. There’s always another (million) stories to tell after all. But if I have fun and enjoy the process, then I can keep doing this just about forever. Or at least that’s what I hope.

I know there will be crappy days, and times when I feel like I’m not making any progress, or worse, negative progress. But it’s all part of learning. I have to remind myself that if I learn something from that not so great effort, then it’s not a waste because it makes the next thing I do better. It’s hard to keep that in mind some days, but it’s important, so I keep trying.

These things will all happen in whatever time they need to unfold fully. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Forward motion is really the key, and in a big picture sense, rather than in the individual days. Am I progressing toward the things I want to do? If the answer is yes, then I need to let it happen. If the answer is ever no, well, that’s time to re-evaluate things. In either case, I’ve got to exercise patience, no matter how hard it is.

I can’t be the only one to go through this, either. I’m sure everyone who reads this has had periods where patience was in short supply. What’s your most frequent cause? How do you deal with it?

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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14 Responses to Patience Is Hard

  1. maryamchahine says:

    I know exactly how you feel. Patience doesn’t come easy for me either. It’s an uphill battle.

  2. Celtic Forest Dweller says:

    *hugs* Hope you get it figured out!

    Sorry about the teen thing… it sometimes gives us younger folks a little bit of hope, but I can see how it might be frustrating to slightly older people. 😛

    And I have patience problems sometimes too, but oftentimes it seems like my problem is the opposite of yours — sometimes I’m lazy and don’t push hard enough to get these stories done, whereas you just keep going and going. Now, I’ll admit that even though I have a million story ideas myself, you seem to have a greater volume, so maybe it’s good you keep going at that pace… 😉

    • Julie says:

      I just meant the teen thing as an example of someone achieving something you feel you should have, or makes you feel like whatever you’ve achieved isn’t enough. There are plenty of variations on that theme, like the writer who you think sucks but is a bestseller, while you can’t get a book deal for whatever reason.

      I’ll admit, I used to have the lazy problem. I’d tell myself I was going to do it later, that I’d write when I was ready. I stopped doing that, stopped accepting excuses from myself because I realized something important. No one will write my books for me, and I wouldn’t want them to. If I want these stories told my way, then I have to get off my duff and do it. It can be one heck of a motivator, to be honest.

  3. Impatience is always nipping at my heels. I’ve accepted that it will always be there. I’m 40 with about 32 documented ideas. They use to scream at me too, but I finally told them simmer down. I know I will not get to them all, but that’s okay, because I don’t have to get to them all. Those ideas are there for me and not the other way around. I know I will never run out of story ideas and I’m ready to reject anyone who wants to give me an idea too.
    I’m not where I wanted to be in life either, but I’ve accepted that. ACCEPTANCE has helped me deal with my impatience. I might even call him my friend in the future. Struggling with him has helped me to realize not to fight my emotions, but allow them to move inside and feel what they are expressing. I don’t have to react in the typical fashion. That part I can change. Feeling the emotion I cannot. That part will change as acceptance settles in and my reactions change, which normally takes time.

    Eventually I will make impatience my tool and good friend.
    I will use him to motivate me to stay on task.

    • Julie says:

      That’s pretty much what I use mine for, motivation and focus. These days, I’m getting more zen about it *most of the time*. I just have some days where it gets the best of me, but even those are happening less often, which is nice.

  4. 4amWriter says:

    I would have to agree with Brian about acceptance being helpful in dealing with impatience. If I tell myself ahead of time that I won’t be able to get in any writing one day because there is just too much Life stuff going on, then I am okay with it and I’m not annoyed, angry, or impatient about a missed opportunity. I am typically pretty impatient, so this has been a work in progress. But my stress level has decreased monumentally since I started accepting some days I just can’t get certain things done.

    • Julie says:

      I’ll definitely go along with this. I think it’s important to also understand all the other things that are going on in your life. Sometimes there just isn’t time, and there’s no point in stressing yourself out about it.

  5. I am totally impatient. I want everything to happen RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT.

  6. dex says:

    You and I have the same struggle and approach dealing with it the same way: “Mostly I try to remember to enjoy the journey.”

    • Julie says:

      I think it’s the only way to really do this. You can’t do everything you might want to, or at the time you’d prefer. Life’s about choices, writing no less than anything else in life. But if you enjoy the journey, at least you’ll have some fun, right?

      • dex says:

        That’s how I see it. Writing should be fun, in and of itself, or it’s just too much work to be worth it. Life’s too short to fill it with hours of doing something you hate.

  7. Pete Denton says:

    Struggling to find time and energy to write makes me impatient. I know that I have the time, but the day job drains all my mental energy. I open my manuscript and stare at it and then watch tv.

    I need to stop putting it off until later and knuckle down. Your 140 story ideas waiting is NOT surprising 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Yeah, I didn’t expect anyone to be that surprised by the volume of ideas, even if I have stopped mentioning the new ones here. 😉

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