Introduction: This is my first guest post! Please give a warm welcome to Deborah Lehman from Black Coats and Blank Paper. Some of you may already be familiar with her blog…if you are not, I would highly recommend taking a moment and checking it out! Especially if you enjoy:
writing, NaNoWriMo, amazing music selections, fun life stuff, laughter/hilariousness, personality labeling, character sketching, art, and living life to the fullest!
Deborah and I both wrote a post in response to the prompt: a writer’s greatest traits. You can check out my post about daring over on her blog!
Expectation. Aspiration. Dream.
Forbearance. Fortitude. Endurance.
I think, for us dreamers, we can’t help but focus on the former: all synonyms of Hope. After all, Hope is the popular older sister of Patience, the latter. Hope is excited, sweet, and shining. Patience, long-suffering as it is, doesn’t really mind that Hope gets all the credit. But we, as dreamers, need to give Patience the attention it deserves.
Hope is the yearning for good things to come – Patience is the path that gets you there.
So, what then? Yay Patience—great, fantastic. But a weapon, you say? Of course. Why?
Because the very definition of Patience is toleration, acceptance, and putting up with the most irritating of circumstances, all without losing it. And of the most irritating of circumstances, failing to write a half-decent novel ranks highly.
If you write, you need Patience, because these things take time. Storytelling especially. Drafting a book can be unbearably long, but even when you jump that hurdle, you have to edit. And edit, and edit, and edit. Without a doubt, the most frustrating thing to happen next is to get lost. To know that something just isn’t there, isn’t working, but you have no idea how to fix it.
You may be the author, but you don’t always know what’s right for a story. Maybe it’s the character, maybe it’s the POV, maybe it’s the entire world. Or maybe it’s just not the right story. As a writer plagued with commitment issues, this advice is difficult to give. But if you don’t win the first time, maybe it’ll be the second time. Or third, or fourth. I’ve already written one of my books twice. As it turns out, I need to rewrite it again. I’m quite irritated. However, I must remember:
They said it’d be worth it, they never said it’d be easy.
Alas, it gets harder. There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not just your story; it’s you. You didn’t write posts and poems at 3 years old – maybe you didn’t even start until 16. Or 30. Or, like my grandmother, a paid artist, didn’t start painting until 50. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your brain.
You aren’t going to compose a smashing hit on your first try.
Your thrilling first draft will be horrifically dull.
A year from now, you’ll be embarrassed by what you write today.
It’s highly frustrating, really. Each time I start a new novel, I marvel how far my skill has progressed, thus nullifying the quality of previous novels. At the same time, I am disgusted at how clumsy I remain. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find exactly what I’m talking about.
To get better at writing, you have to write. To break the rules, you first must learn them. I hate to say this to you, because I hate reading this: it’s true.
It’s frustrating, but it’s true.
I’m not just hating on young writers here; this is supposed to be encouragement. Because
you can hope to be good all you want – you can dream of your book on the shelves, and you can be crushed by your failures. All I’m asking for is a little foresight.
Your words aren’t sandcastles. When you build a sandcastle, you try to make something beautiful, and, through wrath over its monstrosity, through cruelty of a 3-year-old, or through the icy indifference of the ocean, it’s washed away.
No, your words are stone. You’re carving a sculpture, not building a sandcastle. With every word you write, you get better. You chip more off of the block. That first draft that you swear never to show to a living soul? It’s practice. You’re roughing out the stone.
Even if you shelve the story and never think on it again, it taught you something. Maybe
that something is how to shape an arc, maybe that something is to STOP OVERUSING DESCRIPTIONS OF EYES. Or maybe it proved that you aren’t made for writing science fiction.
Failure is such a grey area in art, and I think that’s why so many artists feel like impostors and disappointments. It’s an old adage, to turn failure into something you can learn from. Irritatingly true, once more. What else can you do? Give up? So you give up, what then? What’s the point of that? Why try if you don’t finish? Why write if you’re not going to get anything out of it? Why give up something you love, just because you messed up?
If the world ran like that, no one would be married, and everyone would be out of a job.
So don’t run your life like that.
Writing is a skill, after all. Some have inborn talent for it, but the world doesn’t run on prodigies either. It runs on people like you and me, who, for all the failures in the world, wouldn’t give up on what they love, because there will be a day when you don’t fail.
There will be a day when you trace your life’s work, your proudest achievement, back to a first draft, a smear of ink on the page, and a quiet determination to make it.
That’s why it’s the greatest weapon. That is why Patience wins over Hope in the long run. Hope is passive, Patience is active. Patience is willing to put up with days and weeks and months and decades of “almost there” and “good try” and “maybe next time.” Patience smiles, nods, and gets back to writing.
© When Almonds Blossom, 2019