Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s vital.

In this third installment of a series exploring the anatomy of a well-adjusted writer, the focus falls on another overlooked—and arguably undervalued—trait: along with thick skin and a strong spine, a writer needs the serenity of a saint.

We live in a do-whatever-it-takes, fight-for-your-dream, grab-life-by-the-jugular kind of world. Any writer who wants to achieve even a modicum of success has to work hard. The obstacles are plentiful, but many of them can be overcome by a combination of creativity, intelligence and diligence. When faced with adversity, the determined writer simply fights harder.

And that usually works.


Here’s a tough lesson for those who have devoted countless hours and made sacrifices for their passion: sometimes there’s nothing to do but wait.

While a writer can set her own pace when it comes to the craft of writing—from outlining and typing the first draft to editing and soliciting—a manuscript eventually must go out into the world. When that happens, all illusion of control soars out the window.

News flash: the publishing industry is slow.

Whether you’re waiting to hear from a prospective agent or an editor (or, more likely, the assistant to the assistant to the editor whose charged with shoveling through the slush pile), you’re going to have some time on your hands.

Find your happy place. Get all Zen. Give yourself a break.

Or don’t.

I suspect the majority of us writers juggle multiple projects. If there isn’t something waiting on the back burner, you could always start tinkering with a new story. Write something fun, crazy, outside of your comfort zone, or just plain bad. Cleanse your palate.

Whatever you do, keep occupied…because a watched plot never boils.

Painting of Saint Monica

While there isn’t a true patron saint of patience, St. Monica’s name gets bandied about. Attribution: Benozzo Gozzoli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lest you accuse me of singling out traditional publishing, I found plenty of opportunities to indulge in impatience throughout the self-publishing process. Those proof copies of The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers couldn’t come fast enough, and the day we gave CreateSpace the thumbs up to sell our book on, I must have refreshed my search page a hundred times waiting for it to appear.

And now that it’s there, I can list off a dozen follow-up tasks I want to tackle. (It’s realistic to create and implement a marketing plan in twenty-four hours, right?)

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I have a history of allowing forward momentum to sometimes steamroll common sense. Take this impossibly aggressive writing schedule, for instance. I suppose we writers have to cut ourselves some slack too.

Perhaps a measure of impatience is inevitable. Real life can get in the way. At the end of the day, no one cares about your book as much as you do. If you don’t serve as champion of your story, who will?

So, yes, fight for your dream when it’s appropriate. But when it’s not, take a deep breath (or two), fold your hands, and demonstrate faith in your work through patience.