Writing, Patience, and Persistence
Posted by monicamynk
The people who really know me will probably crack up at this title. I hate waiting on anything, but especially when it’s some kind of feedback on something I’ve done. Whether it be staying up all night to paint a room because I can’t wait for it to be finished, being unable to sleep the night before school starts, or incessantly refreshing the Weather Channel app to see if the snow is any closer, being impatient has become something of an obsession. I work on it daily, but it’s a challenge. Some of us are just wired that way.
The first week of August 2012, two months after I’d first decided to become a serious writer, I started feeling frustrated. I wasn’t improving as fast as I thought I should. I’d joined the forums, gotten some feedback, tried to improve, and then entered a few contests and fared poorly. I’d devoted a whole summer to learning how to write, after all.
What I lacked was patience. Thankfully, others had enough patience to offer me reassurance and help me continue the path. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve come farther than I ever dreamed I could.
I recently stumbled on a quote by Richard Bausch, an esteemed creative writing professor from the University of Memphis, from this interview transcript, Washington Post, November 2003. He was asked if writing could be taught. He responded:
No. I don’t teach writing. I teach patience. Toughness. Stubbornness. The willingness to fail. I teach the life. The odd thing is most of the things that stop an inexperienced writer are so far from the truth as to be nearly beside the point. When you feel global doubt about your talent, that is your talent. People who have no talent don’t have any doubt. And it’s figuring that out and learning how to put all that stuff behind you and just do the work. Just go in and shake the black cue ball and see what surfaces.
After finding that quote, I researched Richard Bausch and found his essay, “Letter to a Young Writer” on the National Endowment for the Arts website.
Several things in this letter resonated with me, and I’d like to devote a few posts to considering them in depth.
In his opening paragraph, he talks about two things that have plagued me. The first are those negative thoughts of self-doubt that creep in every time someone looks at me and says, “YOU want to be a writer?”
Or, better yet, the ones who say, “You want to be a writer? Me, too. Look at my novice, underdeveloped story.”
Bausch answers this self doubt by assuring the young writer that it’s normal, painful though it may be. Writing is one of those things that everyone has an opinion on, and many people think they do well. Anyone who wants to be a true success needs the patience to trudge on when they feel discouraged.
Something else he mentions are the things the writer must give up to achieve this dream. Choosing the life of a writer is choosing to let go of certain things. Bausch says this:
“Writing is not an indulgence. The indulgences are what you give up in order to write.You don’t go to as many parties, you don’t watch as much television, you don’t listen to as much music. You make decisions in light of what you have to do in a given day and everything except the life you lead with your family is subordinated to the hours you must work. How much you get done depends in large part not on your talent, which is whatever it is and it’s mostly constant, but on your attitude about what you are doing.”
Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe I’ve written something nearly every day for 18 months. I’m terrible at keeping New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not the best at maintaining good habits. But I’m 100% convinced that I’ve been able to improve as a writer because I keep at it every single day.
If you’re dedicated, you can do it! So push up your sleeves, turn off the TV, and get to writing!