(I've known Aaron Polson virtually for a few years now and he's a good online friend and talented writer. Today he stops by to talk about something that plagues all writers, whether they're traditionally published or self-published: impatience.)
I am an impatient man.
The reasons for my impatience are plentiful: the wiring of my brain and blueprint of my genes, the ease of the internet, the speed of modern society, smart phones, my sons (seven and five) constantly yanking my attention in different directions… I can easily point a blaming finger in several directions, but I have to own my impatience. It’s part of me. No matter how much I crave a “type B” rating (like any type B personality would worry about it too much), I’m strictly type A. Well maybe A-.
Here’s the problem with impatience and being a writer: they just don’t do well together. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “like oil and water”; this is more oil, water, and a lit match. Sure, the flames hold a moment of beauty, but then the smell reaches you.
A writer must learn to manage his or her impatience. Have a great idea for a novel? Fine. Sit down and write it. Nothing replaces seat time. Nothing. Finished your novel? Wonderful. Now let it rest. Editing immediately will only turn out badly. You need to allow time away from the book in order to see plot hole, character inconsistencies, and other hiccups in your draft. Edits done, book revised and polished. Great. Welcome to the great eternal wait we call the querying process. I waited ten months for a response from an agent once—and he requested a full after holding my partial. Ten months. Some never responded. In other words, I’m still waiting on a few rejections from 2007.
But, you say, I only write short stories. Welcome to the queue. I once waited three years for a form rejection. When I read the story again, I tossed it in the virtual recycling bin. A lot changes for a writer in three years.
Even if you choose to take the indie/self-published route, you will need patience. The 24-36 hours between clicking “publish” and a book actually showing in an Amazon.com search can feel like weeks. Waiting for the first sale: painful. The patience to wait for the first review: a task of Herculean proportions.
The irony of impatience is being impatient wastes more time than being still. When impatience takes me, I’m constantly clicking. Checking sales ranks and your inbox becomes a compulsion which can threaten to devour precious writing time. Time, not money, is the limited resource which kills most writing careers before they really start. It takes writers years to learn their craft, and once they do, years to produce books and stories worthy of their audience. Although the path may take some writers longer than others, there is no other way to travel it, no express lane for the impatient. Writing takes time.
Impatience is my demon. We know each other well.
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Aaron Polson currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. During the day, Aaron works as a mild-mannered high school English teacher. His stories have been reprinted in The Best of Every Day Fiction 2009 and 2010, listed as a recommended read by Tangent Online, received honorable mention in the storySouth Million Writers Award and Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. His latest novel, Borrowed Saints, is available for Kindle. He is patiently waiting to hear what you think of it.