Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Patience is the art of concealing your impatience.

Guy Kawasaki

Impatience, in my view, is one of those painful appendages of any writer. Whether it spurs a writer on or thrusts them into an abyss of worthlessness and underachieving despair, it appears to be a very common attribute amongst us who covet The Novel with our name printed boldly on the spine.

In 2012, I followed the journeys of writers who churned out three, four, ten novels at eye-watering speed. Some have later voiced regret at their haste, wishing they'd taken more time to perfect their work. Perhaps their growth as a writer enabled them to look back at their earlier efforts with a more critical, vicious eye. A cruel punishment for personal progress, you could say, but still a step in the right direction in my mind. You wouldn't want to look back and say “I wish I could still write like that”, would you?

In contrast, I've followed writers who have visibly deteriorated in their expectations of themselves: who apologise profusely for not having blogged in a few days, or get defensive about their perceived lack of progress: who set unrealistic – not to mention public – deadlines, only to burn out when they fail to reach them. I've been partial to a bit of that myself in the past; some of my old posts can only be read through a gap in fingers that cover my eyes with the mortification of it all!

With the Internet making the lives and journeys of other writers more accessible, comes the inevitable unfair comparisons. Many a time I've found myself thinking “look at how much they've accomplished... I'll never be able to write three books in a year”. Never mind the fact that I have absolutely no desire to condense my projects in that way: I automatically see their accomplishment as THE accomplishment. THE path. The path to what is debatable, but it's a complete path nonetheless, whilst my path is still being laboriously paved, brick by brick. I have to make peace with that and be patient.

Another misery I've fallen victim to is when I read all about how much fun other writers have: when their characters leap out and take over, and how these writers are just along for the ride, documenting all their wonderful antics. I smart at these declarations, consumed by jealousy. It's like going for dinner with the couple who can't stop gazing into one another's eyes, whilst you and your man fizzle with hostility because you've been arguing about who's turn it was to do the dishes earlier.

Don't get me wrong, I find writing immensely gratifying, but I'm never sitting there with a big cheeser on my face, falling deeply in love with these characters I made two chapters ago. Even when I'm writing my first drafts (which I now know is much more fun than rewriting/editing), I can't bring myself to gush about them. I grow fond of them, yes, but I'm wise to all their traits, not just the ones that charm me. To really know them is to despise them at times, in the same way your nearest and dearest can piss you right off! I'm sure the feeling is mutual: at the moment, I'm editing my “Brothers” novel and the majority of my characters are being a pain in the arse, to be frank. They keep changing things and making things difficult. Perhaps they'd be more co-operative if I figured out what their great-grandmother's doctor's mother's maiden name was.

I'm tempted to list off a bunch of goals for 2013. I like reading other people's goals and I love making lists. But I can't. I can't even say I'm 20%, 40%, 60% or even 2% complete on any one of my five first-draft novels. I have a funny feeling I've made things difficult for myself in the way I'm going about it all, but I have to make peace with that and be patient. I'm putting in the time and commitment, as well as regularly contributing to my “To Do Better Next Time” document, so the more mistakes I make, the better. *said through gritted teeth*

I'm taking this opportunity to wish all other writers a productive 2013. If you're as impatient as me, and you feel that you don't really have a lot to show for 2012, then just tell yourself what I'm telling myself: Put the work in. It will all become significant one day, even if it doesn't seem like it now. Be patient.

This will be my last post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Aside from the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April, I will most likely only be posting once a month from now on, and I don't want to bleat on about my insecurities in every post. I shall, however, continue to support and follow the terrific writers of the #IWSG and recommend any writer to do the same.

To end on a positive note, I'm thrilled to announce that I was shortlisted in the Scottish Book Trust's New Writers Award. I'm honoured to have made an impression as there were so many applicants, and it has given me a nice wee confidence boost to take into the new year!

Take care,
Catherine x