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.