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The importance of being patient

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m an impatient person. In fact, it’s kind of a joke (and I am usually the first to put myself in the punch line).

Writing is all about patience. Patience for the idea to develop, patience for each scene to unfold, patience for the characters to reveal themselves to you. Part of you can’t wait to skip ahead and get to the finish line, but then there’s also the dread that comes as you approach it, and so you try and slow things down, even as you wish you could pick up the speed.

Or maybe that’s just me :).

I’m in the outlining stage right now of my new novel (henceforth known as work-in-progress, or “WIP” for short). I haven’t always outlined, and I’ve paid the price for not outlining (did I mention it took me 10 years to complete novel #1?). I’m still not the best at it, but I realize more than ever the crucial role it plays and what an incredible tool it is to shape my story and take away the stress of writing and developing the structure at the same time.

So what’s the problem? One word: patience. As in, I have none.

When I’m outlining, I am not actually writing; I’m doing lots and lots of brain dumps, asking lots of questions, sketching out scenes, dialogue, characters — all of the things that will later feed into my writing and make the actual writing part much, much easier when I finally get to it — but I won’t get to “it,” aka writing, for a long, long while. That’s where the impatience comes in.

To me, writing is as elemental as breathing and sleeping and eating. When I don’t get to do it on a daily basis in some capacity, I feel incomplete, as though I haven’t accomplished something that’s important to me. Writing blog posts help, for sure, as does writing fan fiction to keep the fiction-writing muscles sharp (I seem to be cranking out Hunger Games fan fiction like there’s no tomorrow), but ultimately, I want to be writing my actual story out. Even at this early stage, this outlining stage, I’m already in love with these characters and I can’t wait to set them free and have them walk and talk and act. I want to be immersed in their world and tell the story that’s in my head — because I’m so excited about the story that’s in my head and want to share it with everyone who’ll listen.

But I have to be patient. Rushing this stage would be akin to taking a cake out of the oven before it’s fully baked; it comes out all raw and wet and no one will want to eat it. And this cake I’m working on right now has the potential to be a really delicious cake that people will enjoy — I certainly don’t want to jeopardize that because I’m getting antsy with all of the outlining.

And so I keep focusing on the task at hand and reminding myself that the time I invest now will pay off tenfold down the road. When it comes time to sit down and write out the scenes that I’ve already planned in detail, I can just set my brain free to concentrate on the prose — because I’ve already decided what needs to happen and what needs to happen next. I never really had that luxury before, because I always struggled through it, using my first draft as the virtual outline. Not this time.

Now if only I could nail this patience thing :).

Patience, grasshopper

Patience, grasshopper

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About writejenwrite

Silicon Valley marketer by day, novelist-in-training by night--running addict, foodie, bookworm, pop culture enthusiast, and aspiring philanthropist in between.

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