FOR WRITERS: THE POWER OF PATIENCE AND HUMILITY
How many hundreds of practice dives did it take this champion diver to reach his peak level of performance? I can imagine him feeling disgruntled on some of those early mornings when his coach tells him to do another ten dives. He does what his coach tells him, even though he can't help feeling impatient, thinking to himself 'I've got this! I could do this dive in my sleep!'
Are you an impatient person? Some personality types tend to be more impatient than others. I must confess to being an impatient person. I have always wanted things to happen immediately, if not yesterday. If I had to wait to hear about a job, or a promotion or even a marriage proposal, those hours, days or weeks would be drawn out and agonising. I wanted to get to the finish line. Nowadays, I am more calm and mellow but my impatience still surfaces from time to time.
As we confidently set out towards our goal of becoming a published author, the desirability of being patient and humble does not occur to us. Yet having patience and a little humility will enable us to travel the often long, sometimes frustrating, journey to signing a contract with a publisher. We need patience to stay the course despite the almost-inevitable setbacks, delays and rejections. We need humility to appreciate that we are still learning and honing our writing abilities. Like the diver, if we think and act as if we know it all, we may be for a long fall.
The importance of cultivating patience and humility recently came to front of mind when I responded to a young writer’s call for help. ‘Would someone please look over my almost-completed novel and give me some feedback?' The young writer expressed her intention to present the manuscript to publishers ASAP. And so I appraised four short chapters of her fantasy novel. I discovered she had a highly creative imagination, however she had not been able to convey the story in her head effectively into words on the page. She did not have the essential writing skills and techniques.
As a professional editor, I needed to let her know, tactfully and sensitively, that her manuscript was not yet at a publishable standard. I provided specific examples of why I had come to this conclusion. Overall, my advice was to put the manuscript aside and not revise it until she had undertaken some learning activities on the skills and techniques of writing fiction. I provided her with recommendations for short courses and workshops, offline and online.
Naturally, the young writer was disappointed and defensive. She came up with many reasons why she couldn’t attend writing workshops. She was incredulous that a writer would need to develop writing skills, saying ‘I was hoping someone would come along to word and structure it for me,’ and added:
“Do I have to learn to write properly before anyone will look at my work?”
Frankly, I could not believe what I was hearing. Taking a deep breath, I answered politely:
Editing a manuscript does not involve rewriting large slabs of it. An editor may do some rewriting but only small amounts so that the client understands what they need to do.
No one is going to write/rewrite your story for you unless you have the financial means to hire a ghost writer.
My advice to writers is not to walk away from your writing after receiving negative feedback from an editor or rejections from literary agents and publishers. Do not quit because someone in the editorial/publishing industry tells you “It’s not ready yet.” Make that your cue to learn what you need to learn, to revise and implement the feedback you have received. Also, seek input from other publishing professionals so that you are not relying on one person’s feedback.
So, how can we become calmer, more patient and humble in the pursuit of our goals:
Patience – From the very beginning, recognise the importance of managing our expectations realistically. Be unsurprised and prepared for some disappointments, setbacks and rejections along the way. While we would all love to be that overnight sensation - less than 3% of published authors - we, the other 97% have to pay our dues and stay the course.
Humility – to be, keep aware of and accept that we don’t know it all and we never will. And it is OK because we commit ourselves to learning, refreshing and adapting all through our writing lives.
In summary, it is understandable when writers spit the dummy, declaring to anyone who will listen, "It's no good. I can't get my book seen, let alone published." Never give up on yourself. Keep your dreams alive because life can and does 'turn,' and sometimes when you least expect it, it turns wonderful. If your heartfelt desire is to secure a publishing contract and be sold internationally, be stubborn, try different approaches and stay in the game.
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Doing the write thing (and loving it!)
Managing Editor & Publisher
LLOYD MOSS publishing