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



Ravena Guron said...

WOW! Congratulations on getting nominated for that award! That is AWESOME!

And :( that you're not going to post so much anymore, because I do love reading your IWSG posts, and it's how I found your blog in the first place, but I wish you the best of luck with everything!

On another note, I've been guilty of both rushing things and then setting public deadlines which I can't meet. I guess I need to find a balance, because I can't see myself EVER writing 3 books a year... OR a book a year! :)

Kyra Lennon said...

I was very excited to hear you were shortlisted for a New Writer's Award - that is such brilliant news!

Anonymous said...

Congrats Catherine!
Glad to be on this writing journey with you!

Pauline Wiles said...

I, too, find myself a little daunted by what others achieve. But the most important thing is that we all find our own pace... and the best balance between speed and quality.
Congrats on being shortlisted - that's fantastic.

LindaC said...

This is an excellent post - I reckon we can nearly all identify with it! Finding your own path is so important - I have spent a couple of years thinking everyone else is doing it 'right' and I'm not - or that they are more 'writerly' than I am! 2013 is going to be different! Best of luck with everything!

Suzanne Furness said...

Congratulations on the Award, it is defintely a confidence boost when something like that happens. I feel that every writers journey is different, how we approach it, what we get out of it and so on. It is tempting but not always useful to compare as I think we all have to find our own way. I certainly don't ever envisage being able to write three full length novels a year even if I quit the day job! I guess I'm slow but steady, maybe I think too much.

Good luck with everything you do in 2013.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, I know just how you feel on almost every account. I like my characters, but they don't talk to me or take over or anything. And I certainly can't crank out several books a year. I can't even write one.
But what we do and how we do it is OUR style, and that's what we need to do best.

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats on the award!

And it's so easy to be impatient about things. I know I have a tendency to want to write in all my ideas at the same time, but I've learned I have to pick and choose my battles. We can only do the best we personally can do, not what others may be able to do.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Delighted to hear you were shortlisted for NWA. Well done! I was also really pleased to see that Lynsey May got an award, after her efforts in so many areas of the Edinburgh writing scene. So it is a great accolade.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the award, Catherine. That's a good one, for sure.
My mind is still boggling at the fact that you are working on five first draft novels (did I get that right?). I find that one is more than enough for me! I got it to 50,000 words in the past year, which was slightly less than I had hoped - one has to be realistic about the art of the possible. I do write every day, but it can take me a couple of hours sometimes just to write a few sentences, so it's slow going. On the other hand, I have very little editing/rewriting to do, so I guess that helps. I look forward to your blogs. Happy New Year and good progress in 2013!

Ciara said...

Congrats! That connection doesn't happen sometimes. I've only written one book that the characters totally took over. Several books a year is tough!!

Catherine Noble said...

@Ravena Guron: Thank you! :) Aww don't be sad, I'm thrilled that you love reading my posts, I hope you feel the same about my future posts.
Balance is something I'm not too good with, I think the best thing we can do is turn up (mentally) and do our best and discard all concept of time :)

@Kyra Lennon: Thanks :) it's very exciting, and a great honour!

@1manandhisbooks: Thank you, Jim, likewise!

@Pauline Wiles: Thank you very much! You're completely spot on. Pacing is such an individual thing, why is it so hard for us all to comprehend this?

@Linda C: I'm glad you think so! It's like you're speaking my thoughts, Linda. Good luck to you too! I hope you have a great 2013 of "doing it right" :)

@Suzanne Furness: Thank you :) I tell myself I shouldn't look to anyone else to feel validated in my writing, but I couldn't help getting a wee lift when I saw the email to say I'd been shortlisted.
See to be honest? Even if I was writing full time, I couldn't and wouldn't want to write three books a year. There's a lot to be said for cultivating ideas (or so I've found, at least). Best of luck to you :)

@Alex J. Cavanaugh: Thanks, Alex! You're absolutely right. If I wanted to read the style of a particular writer, I would read THAT writer, not someone trying to emulate it. It's comforting that you can relate to my post. Thanks again for creating #IWSG, it's been a great help and I look forward to following you all through the months.

@Cherie Reich: Thank you :) Some sage words indeed, Cherie. I have a similar tendency and it gets me into such a mess! I hope to one day know how to pick the right battles haha. Happy New Year to you too!

@ispaton: Thanks, Iain. I was also delighted for Lynsey May, I've been following her blog for a while now. I'm thrilled to be shortlisted, I wasn't at all satisfied with the piece I'd submitted either! Thank you, Stuart! It definitely is a good one, I'm very proud.
To be fair, I'm not working on all 5 novels at the same time (eek). Last year was spent writing the stories without much adherence to structure etc. and, because I wasn't confident enough to move on to the revising/editing stage, I just battered out another story, then another... Each of them have A LOT of reworking and pruning to do. Now that I'm in the process of revising one of them, however, I'm excited about getting stuck into the rest. Editing isn't as scary as I imagined!
In saying that, I'm extremely jealous that you don't need to edit or rewrite. I'd love to work that way. I hope to try it once I've got these ones out of the way. Good luck to you for 2013 and beyond :)

@Ciara: Thank you! I imagine several books a year would be extremely tough. I don't think I have the work ethic for that kind of output! Good luck to you for 2013.

Misha Gericke said...

I know what you mean. Characters feel very nearly real to me, so I have love-hate relationships with them all. :-)

Anne Mackle said...

Well done on achieving the short list,and yes it should boost your confince. Just do what works for you Catherine and I'm sure I'll be buying your book one day.

Maria said...

Congratulations! As you say what a confidence boost! Good luck with your plans...

Anonymous said...

I read all about how much fun other writers have: when their characters leap out and take over.

Those other writers may have characters that leap out and wipe their arse for them in the morning and make dinner for them in the evening. But I'd say the important thing is that the reader LEAP IN to the characters, to the book, to the setting, to the world that the author has created.

Patsy said...

There are people who write faster than us, or better, or who enjoy it more - and there are people who don't write as well, who're slower, who suffer more. What matters is whether we're writing as well as we can, at a speed that fits into the rest of our life and that we're getting something out of it.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Amanda Trought said...

Catherine congratulations on being shortlisted. I so relate to this post and often beat myself up for setting the unrealistic goals that puts unnecessary pressure on you. Taking a step back and re-evaluating things is so key. Looking forward to seeing your offerings. Blessings, Amanda

Amanda Saint said...

Hello Catherine - huge congratulations on the shortlist! Thanks for your words of wisdom re patience, they are much needed. As I really want to be published and I'm not I often forget to look at what I have achieved rather than what I haven't. My biggest goal for this year is not to beat myself up so much and instead give myself a pat on the back for all the good writing work I do even if I don't get that elusive agent in 2013. Looking forward to seeing your A-Z posts again this year :)

M Pax said...

OK, you sound like me. lol I'm very impatient. Congrats on getting on the shortlist. That's fantastic.

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