A Guest Post on Patience

1 Jun

By Sammy Bina


This is probably not the best thing to admit about myself right out the gate, but as Sarah assured me she also has this problem (and I’m sure many of us do), I’ll just spit it out: I am an impatient person. One of dictionary.com’s definitions was “eagerly desirous,” so for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to use that as our go-to definition.

I’m pretty sure most, if not all, writers are impatient people. We get an idea for a story in a really inappropriate place (ie: class, dinner out with friends, a bar, a remote location with no computer, etc.) and refuse to have any more fun until we’ve jotted down some notes. If paper (regular, toilet, or the napkin variety) or a computer aren’t available, we get antsy. Impatient. The desire to write down ideas before we forget them is overwhelming. We’ve all been there.

Being a writer is all about having patience; the past few months have taught me that. Writing (and revising) takes time, and the publishing industry is a notoriously slow one, so it’s important to learn the value of patience. Querying can really teach you a thing or two, because 99% of the time, you’re just sitting around, waiting. You send Agent A a query letter, and you hear back right away. You send the materials they requested, and in the meantime, send a query to Agent B. You know Agent B has a quick turnaround time, but after a few weeks, you still haven’t heard anything. People on Query Tracker and agentturnaround are all getting responses, and you wonder if your letter somehow got lost in cyberspace or the slush pile. You get impatient (or, as I like to say, eagerly desirous) for an answer. But as much as you want to resend your query, you need to wait it out. If you last two months without going insane, you can resend it then!

The same goes for writing, I think. It’s not uncommon to get stuck on a scene in the midst of a writing frenzy, which brings you to a horrible, jolting, unexpected stop. You get frustrated and impatient, trying to fight your way through it. Best case scenario, you manage to resolve your problem. Worst case scenario, you give up for the night. If you’re still stuck on that one scene when you return to it, sometimes it’s best to step away for a while and concentrate on something else, be it a different scene, or a new story altogether. Maybe try your hand at writing the synopsis or query letter, since you’ll eventually need them, should you be considering publication.

Patience, my friends. It’s the key to staying sane in this business. I’ve gotten much better over time, and thought I’d list a few handy tips that helped me out when I was eagerly desirous for any number of writing-related things:

1. Read everything you can get your hands on. It’s like homework, only fun.
2. Take up a new hobby. Personally, I suggest thrifting. It will teach you to hunt through all the junk thrift stores have, until you find that perfect item. Voila, patience! (And you’ll have the satisfaction that comes with retail therapy, too!)
3. Do NOT leave your email open 24/7. That’s what really drove me crazy when I first started querying. I’d refresh it every ten minutes, even though I knew it updated on its own. Pick a time to check your email once a day, and stick to it.
4. If that doesn’t work, have people yell at you, or take your computer away. This can be very effective, for obvious reasons.
5. If worse comes to worst, go to Starbucks, or your favorite slightly-overpriced-but-delicious cafe. Bring your laptop, or a book. At least you’ll feel writerly, and maybe that will inspire you. And it will keep you busy.
6. Follow literary agencies and their agents on Twitter. Some of them will let you know where they are in terms of reading queries, and it will save you a lot of heartache and health issues.
7. Bake. It won’t teach you anything about writing, but you’ll hopefully learn to make a decent quiche, and in the meantime, learn a thing or two about sitting around and being productive.

It may sound stupid, but staying active helps a lot. After those initial weeks of querying are over, it becomes much easier to keep your email closed, and to focus on other things. If you’re writing, stepping away for a time really does help. Simple steps really do make all the difference.


Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her dystopian romance, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.

20 Responses to “A Guest Post on Patience”

  1. Kat Zhang June 1, 2010 at 10:43 AM #

    Ah, impatience. One of my personal vices. Great suggestions here, Sammy!

    • samanthabina June 1, 2010 at 11:06 AM #

      I figured most people had a problem with it, being as many of us here are writers :-p It only seemed appropriate, haha. Glad you thought they were helpful, Kat!

  2. Rowenna June 1, 2010 at 10:45 AM #

    Great points! I wrote a post on my blog about patience a while back, because it’s such an important factor in the writing life. Rough, but important.

    My best way, so far, for dealing with the impatience brought on by querying project A has been to dig, heels in, to writing project B 🙂

  3. samanthabina June 1, 2010 at 11:08 AM #

    It really is an important thing to learn, and I fully believe querying really does the trick. It was for me, anyway! I’m a much more patient writer (though I’m not sure if I’m a very patient thrifter…)

    And I agree, getting your hands dirty with another project is definitely a useful way to keep yourself busy! Plus, when you get that agent and they ask if you’ve got other work, you can give them a full-hearted yes!

  4. Julie Eshbaugh June 1, 2010 at 1:01 PM #

    Hey Sammy. 🙂 What a great guest post!!! I’m so glad I never have any problems with impatience… PSYCHE!!!! I think if you write for publication, impatience will eventually become an issue in your life. Your suggestion #3 will definitely be the most helpful (and most difficult) for me to put into action. Thanks for this very helpful post! (Oh and CUTE PIC! =D)

    • samanthabina June 1, 2010 at 4:46 PM #

      Thanks, Julie!

      Trust me, I already messed up on #3. I left my email open today and had to deal with rejection letters on my birthday. Way to bring a woman down :-p

      And thanks (about the picture)! It was just last week, lol. Too bad I cut out the DC skyline.

  5. Myra June 1, 2010 at 2:17 PM #

    Great post! I really do need to learn more patience, especially when writing the first draft. I always try to rush it and it ends up not being finished at all. 😡

    • samanthabina June 1, 2010 at 4:47 PM #

      Thanks, Myra!

      First drafts require less patience than subsequent ones, just because you’re free to make as many mistakes as you want :-p What’s really bad is when you get to the fourth, fifth, and sixth drafts, haha.

  6. jenn fitzgerald June 1, 2010 at 10:37 PM #

    great post Sammy! #7 is the cure for everything!

    • samanthabina June 3, 2010 at 10:25 PM #

      Um, it TOTALLY is. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so :-p

  7. Caitlin June 1, 2010 at 10:53 PM #

    I recommend knitting, but thrifting sounds fun too. This is a great post with great suggestions, good luck on patiently awaiting those query responses!

    • samanthabina June 3, 2010 at 10:26 PM #

      I’d love to learn to knit. One of my roommates has tried to teach me numerous times, and I just can’t get the hang of it. I wish you better luck than I!

  8. Aurora Blackguard June 2, 2010 at 3:55 AM #

    I get antsy just waiting for my Amazon books to come. I am so impatient it’s basically a disease. Hmm.. maybe I’ll take up something soothing like watercolour painting. Meh.

    • samanthabina June 3, 2010 at 10:26 PM #

      Oh, I’m a totally different story when I know a package is coming, especially if it contains books. Then I haunt the mailbox and stalk my mailman until it comes :-p

  9. ananyachandra June 2, 2010 at 6:56 AM #

    So, this doesn’t have anything to do with the kind of patience that you’re talking about. But, I am writing a novel with my best friend; we’re sixteen. And I write really fast. I have no idea if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing. But she takes days (literally writing one paragraph, while I’m done with the entire chapter in just about a day. I definitely tend to get impatient, because we’re doing one POV each, and half the chapter is just sitting there, incomplete. I like to know where the story is going to go. I’ve completed my POV till chapter five, and she’s still hasn’t finished chapter two. I’m not the least bit annoyed, just more impatient about getting to know the rest of the story. I need a way to deal with this, because sometimes I get on my own nerves.

    • Kat Zhang June 2, 2010 at 8:29 AM #

      I used to do the same thing! Only thing I can suggest is to start writing your own story…then the only person’s writer’s block you have to worry about is your own 😉 It’ll also keep you occupied until your friend catches up!

    • samanthabina June 3, 2010 at 10:29 PM #

      I can totally relate. Back in the day (we’re talking about 10 years ago), I used to do online add-on stories with a group of about 12 other individuals. And sometimes the storyline you were working on couldn’t progress unless someone else posted, because their storyline also involved your character. So I can totally understand your impatience in terms of that situation. My best suggestion? Keep writing. Plot out the rest of your side of the story. Maybe hearing what could potentially come next might motivate your friend to write faster 🙂

      • Ananya June 5, 2010 at 9:27 AM #

        Thank you both very much 🙂

  10. svonnah June 2, 2010 at 11:40 AM #

    I heard that a lot of writers back when on submissions or queries. I have to admit I got the itch a few weeks ago but counteracted by heating up some ravioli 😀

    • samanthabina June 3, 2010 at 10:30 PM #

      Ravioli for the win. Seriously. I love that stuff so hard.

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