I am a very impatient person. I don’t like waiting in line for anything and I avoid it as much as possible. I open presents immediately after they are given to me. If someone tells me they are having a baby, my honest to goodness first thought is, ‘How on earth are you going to wait nine months for that?” And when they look at me oddly, I say, ‘No. Seriously. How are you going to do it?’ This also means that if I want something, I am determined to find it and insert it into my life as quickly as possible.
This hasn’t always been the simplest feat. Waiting on college and graduate school applications, trying to find an apartment in New York City, looking for new jobs, saving money to travel, finding love…all of this has been an exercise in a virtue I don’t truly possess. I often feel like an agitated parent whose child is throwing a tantrum in the dairy aisle at a supermarket. What I really feel like doing is throwing milk cartons at unsuspecting shoppers, dragging the child by the ankle, and screaming, “COME ON ALREADY!” But instead, I grit my teeth and say firmly, “You are really trying my patience sweetheart.”
As it turns out, the thing I’ve wanted most in my life, since I was six years old, my parents reading Charlotte’s Web over and over again before bed, is to write and publish a novel. And it turns out that is the worst exercise in patience I have ever given myself.
I’ve been writing query letters to imaginary agents since before I knew what my novel was about. I have imagined the exact scenario of learning I have a book deal (it’s a very dramatic event that involves me picking up the phone during an office meeting, leaving said meeting while jumping up and down and screaming, then running through the streets of New York City to tell all my closest friends and family members by foot.) I even have answers prepared for Q and A sessions that come after the book signings of a novel that hasn’t even been completed yet.
So, imagine my despair in discovering that it took a year to get through a first draft. That revisions are taking months. That writing a query to an agent is an art form that can barely get you through the slush pile. That if you manage to get through the slush pile and someone requests pages, they may not take the manuscript. That if they take the manuscript and send it to editors, all the editors can pass on it. That if they don’t pass on it, there are more and more revisions and more and more edits to be done. That if you get through the edits, it takes months and months to find it’s way to a shelf near you. Oh, and then people actually have to read it. So that you have a hope of going through the process again.
The chances of making it that far, are slim. Realistically, it is more likely that my novel will never find a home and I’ll write many more that don’t. This is not a cue for all of you to coddle me and massage my ego. It’s just a simple fact.
This ‘adventure’ (again something I am saying through gritted teeth in the middle of the supermarket) has truly been one of the biggest challenges to my patience, ever. I want to start pitching agents today. But I’m only on my first edit. I want to know what the cover looks like. But I’m only on my first edit. I want to write my 2nd novel. But I’m only on my first edit!
So, I go back to my desk, and I ignore every impulse to do anything else but get through the next hurdle. And the next one. I am slowly learning that writing is not something for a person who is wildly impatient. And yet, I can’t imagine how you could get through it all unless you are a person who is wildly impatient. A person who is always, always looking ahead. A person whose patience is constantly on trial.