Patience: A Work in Progress

I am always in a hurry. Whether it’s getting the kids dressed and out the door, doing a freelance project, reading a book, critiquing, drafting, revising, or querying, I want it done now or possibly yesterday.

This was a perfect fit for my first career choice. I worked for a public relations agency for seven years, then an advertising agency for three years, and it was all about billable hours. We had programs that tracked our time down to 1/10 of an hour. I was great at multi-tasking and delivering ten different client projects in a single day. I was a PR machine. But during my second maternity leave, I realized I really didn’t want to go back. I just wanted to write, and my husband said I should do it.

So began my career as a full-time writer pursuing publication. And that’s where everything went from 80 miles per hour to about 5. It was quite a culture shock to realize I didn’t have to cram a dozen projects into a single day anymore. Except for the occasional freelance project, my only client is me. When it comes to my writing, no one is paying me to do the work quickly. My CPs and readers aren’t anxiously awaiting my next draft. Agents aren’t bouncing in their seats to get my query.

But … I still feel like they are. I have to constantly remind myself that these people aren’t my clients. That there’s no master timetable specifying when I have to finish my draft, get a revision to my CPs, or send out queries. I have to create my own structure, and it’s a work in progress. I finally have a system for drafting that works for me. Meeting daily word count goals isn’t that different from meeting billable time targets for my clients. And initial revisions are fun. I love figuring out how to make the story work, so I don’t rush myself there.

It’s once I get other people involved that I start stressing, like I’ve turned on some kind of timer and if I don’t secure an agent before it goes off I’ve missed my shot. Ridiculous, right? Rationally, I know things will happen when they’re supposed to, and all my rushing around won’t change that. But as soon as I send a draft off for someone to read, the irrational side kicks in. I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear what they think, and as soon as I get notes, I want to jump right in. If I can’t knock revisions out in a day or two, I get antsy, like I’ve been given an assignment and a percentage point gets knocked off for every extra day it takes me. Apparently I am my own nightmare client.

Then there’s querying. I rushed it with my other two novels, but I’m making myself go slow with DEXELON. I only send a round of queries after I’ve gotten responses from agents and assessed whether I need to make revisions. When I get frustrated at the way time is ticking away while I wait on agent responses, I remind myself that I am not the client yet. As a writer, I currently fall into the new business category, otherwise known in my PR agency days as non-billable time. Literary agents might not be billing by the hour the way my agency did, but they still have to choose where they focus their time, and obviously they’re going to devote the bulk of their time to the clients they already have.

Even though I get it, knowing why agents take so long doesn’t turn off that inner timer I have going. I have a feeling I won’t ever be able to shut it off. It’s just the way I am. But I will keep working on that patience, both in writing and in life.

How’s your patience? Anyone else always in a hurry like me?

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