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?