Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tortoise Wins the Race

When I was about 12, I entered a stage in life where I had no patience.  On the one hand, I was intensely curious, so I couldn’t stand waiting to have my desire for knowledge satisfied.  On the other, I was pretty good at getting things done, so I wasn’t about to put up with delays or roadblocks.

This is the image of my impatience!
I think for about four years, between 7th and 11th grade, the curious side of my impatience drove me to ruin my own Christmas surprise.  I would try and hold out, but then about a week or so before Christmas, I’d give in, sneak into my parents’ room and rifle through the pile of gifts in the closet until I found out what I was getting. 

Of course, the fact that my Mom is terrible at hiding presents didn’t help.  The door to the closet was frequently open, and anyone walking buy could easily guess the identity of the random stack of things.  The year my brothers and I stopped believing in Santa Claus was the one when Mom put all the gifts from him under the guestroom bed, where they were perfectly visible from the end of the hall. 

Anyway, parental foibles aside, it was certainly true that my patience was non-existent.  I was in charge of the yearbook committee when I was a senior in high school, and rather than wait for the illustrators to give me their work, I did almost all the doodles and lettering myself, because I was too impatient to deal with my classmates’ lethargy.  I even left some hurt feelings, since at least a few of the girls were ready to do the work and excited about seeing it in the yearbook. 

Here's my new, slightly tenuous patience!
Looking back now, years later, I feel quite amazed at myself.  I’m still not 100% patient, by any stretch of the imagination, but a combination of maturity, writing, teaching, family and friends have slowly taught me the need to wait on myself and on others and to accept the fact that I can’t know everything at once. 

I only regret that I wasn’t more aware of the importance of such things as an adolescent. I feel like I could have had a much more fruitful high school career, if I hadn’t always been pushing to reach some goal the fastest way possible.  I’m glad now that I know that some goals are best reached slowly.

Being an author is one such goal. 

There are two kinds of thinkers, in my opinion – the fast and the slow.  Both kinds have advantages, and both have disadvantages.  I’m the former kind.  My mind leaps swiftly through things and arrives at the end with a bang.  However, most lasting accomplishments require careful thought and slow, repetitive, even monotonous work.  In this way, the slow thinkers have the upper-hand.  Their temptation may be to get tired and go away to do more enjoyable things, but if they have the will to stick with their project, it will almost always turn out magnificent at the end.  I, in contrast, may end up with something rather slap-dash, if I’m not careful.

I don’t want to be a slap-dash writer, though.  No one who pursues some dream or passion wants to be known by friends and (hopefully) audience for always rushing the final product.  In honor of the dream, we all want our final result to be magnificent. 

Currently in my writing life, I’m contemplating postponing the start of a new novel indefinitely.  Originally, I had thought that Christmas would see the beginning of it, but my editing project are going rather slowly.  I am beginning to think that I’d rather complete all the drafts and revisions and edits of two of my novels, instead of piling on an entirely new work which will but exacerbate my multiplication of editing projects

This thought makes me a bit anxious.  I far, far prefer to be writing the fun, new first draft of something than to be slogging yet again through old material.  I don’t want to damage my passion for writing solely out of practical considerations.  However, I think that is just my impatient side speaking.  I can write poetry and short stories, which don’t require the huge time commitment of a novel, and that will be plenty of fuel for my creativity. 

Donkey is patient; dog is patient (if hot); even the truck is patient!
 Meanwhile, if I slowly chip away at my editing, in a year or so I could feel blissfully free of the mental pressure it puts on me.  Moreover, then I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that one or two of my novels are in their best state – works that make me proud, not just doubtful.  It will require quite an exercise of patience on my part, but the end results will be excellent.

So I’m curious.  If you’ve read this post, please take a moment to tell me how you’ve dealt with impatience.  Have you ever taken a seemingly drastic decision to delay, and then had it pay off in excellent results?  I’d love to hear your stories, to help inspire me to stick to my new resolution of patience.  

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