Practicing Patience in Writing
brattylittledongsaeng asked: Any tips for patience? I find that half my problem with not being able to write is because I don’t have that patience to let my mind unravel. I guess I’m so eager to get to the point that I get frustrated and leaves the piece unfinished.
Patience is a huge part of writing. The act of actually finishing something is, in my experience, relatively rare. One becomes frustrated with the writing, the characters, the plot, the amount yet to be done. There are so many factors working against you, against every writer, that the task can seem impossible. It isn’t.
Here are a few tips for patience:
- Identify what’s making you impatient. What about your writing process has your mind wandering and your feet anxiously tapping? Sometimes just knowing which aspects of writing make you feel impatient can go a long way in giving you patience. Try to address why you are impatient. Is it because you don’t feel that your writing is good enough? Because there is so much to do? Because you feel under-prepared to write whatever you’re writing? These issues can be addressed, but not until you identify them for yourself.
- Give yourself a checklist and do one thing at a time. Starting a project can sometimes feel like standing on a hill and staring off into the distance at the miles and miles of road yet to be traveled. That feeling can be overwhelming, exhausting even, and can persuade the impatient writer into hopelessness. But not you! If you make yourself a checklist of tasks to be done for the project, you’ll actually feel like you’re getting something done instead of tackling the whole thing at once. Accomplishing these small goals is much more manageable and allows for small celebrations along the way, something that can be crucial to keeping your confidence and attention levels high.
- Impatience may be a sign of boredom. If you’re bored with your writing, odds are that your readers are going to be just as bored. Your impatience may be your cue to up the ante for your characters or change up your style. Try something new. That may be just what the doctor ordered.
- Keep track of the things that make you impatient. Remember that checklist from two bullet points ago? We’re going to put a different kind of check on it. As you complete tasks on your checklist, mark how often you felt frustrated or bored or otherwise impatient while completing that task. Make the checks proportional to your impatience, large for very impatient and small for a little impatient.
Sometimes our minds can inflate our frustrations, making us feel like one instance of impatience is more invasive that many smaller instances of impatience. It can help to keep score, to have a physical illustration of when and to what degree you feel impatient. Lots of checks or even just one really big check could mean that it’s time to reexamine that particular aspect of your writing. Something about that is pretty clearly rubbing you the wrong way.
- Breathe. I know, I know, but do it for me. Walk away from your writing and take five very long, deep breaths. Go sit someplace quiet and just hum inside of your head and breath. It sounds too simple, but nice, deep breaths can help calm your impatient jitters. I promise.
- Focus on the bigger picture. Yes, you’re taking little steps (remember the checklist) to get to the end of your project, but throwing up your hands over an imperfect word choice or a repeated spelling error will not help you achieve your goals. Work on saying, “I can tackle that later.” Underline it or make a note of it and move on. Grammar and word choice are important, but finishing is the larger goal.
- Forgive yourself. You’re not perfect, so stop beating yourself up over it. Try not to compare the volume of your work or your level of success to other writers. Likewise, try not to compare your first draft to other authors’ finished, published projects. You’ll get there, but one hard-won step at a time, my friend. It’s a long road, and you’ve got to give yourself permission to stumble along the way. The key is to keep going.
Here are some more resources on patience:
- Patience Is a Writer’s Most Important Virtue
- One Step At A Time: Learning Patience As A Writer
- HOW TO LEARN THE SKILL OF PATIENCE
- Practicing Patience
- Patience Is a Skill: Four Ways to Be Patient (Oprah!)
- Learning Patience
- How to Be Patient
- How to be Patient: Learning to Stay Calm
Thank you for your question! If you have any comments on this post or other questions about writing, you can message us here!