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Posts Tagged ‘patience’

I don’t think I hide the fact I like a good vulgarity every once in a while.  Oh hell, who am I kidding?  A slew of expletives can be as fun as baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies with the kids.  They pepper my language regularly and I even turn the ordinary into words something profane.  Example:  New bakery in town is called “Buttercloud,” which I have now turned into a word that can’t be used by anyone without snickering.  But all this jovial fun of offending others comes to a screeching halt with the dirtiest word of them all–process.

It looks innocent enough.  Defenseless with it’s unsuspecting meaning.  “A systematic series of actions directed to some end,” says Dictionary.com which only adds to the normalcy of it.  The exact reason it’s the worst thing out there for people like me.  People who can’t stand idly by as those “series” slowly trudge by while you have your hands in your pockets.  When did systematic mean “taking fucking forever?”  Don’t even get me started about the last part with the nose turned up snobbery of “directed to some end.”  What am I supposed to do with that?  What if I get to this “end” and it’s really just the start of another process?

A picture of "process" -- faceless and empty

You may be asking what has brought on this rant (and frankly, why you are still reading about it)?  I have written four novels in the last three years.  It’s easy to see now that I really vomited a bunch of words the first time and called it a book.  The following two improved, but still lacked the needed voice to land an agent.  I’ve taken my medicine of rejections because it’s the necessary part of learning.   If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have understood how I missed huge chunks of the writing process and my books were suffering because of it.

On this fourth book, I decided to go completely opposite of what I had done in the past.  Call it the George Costanza shift where I hope to get the exact opposite result if I do everything contrary to what I believe and did the first three times.  It started with a written outline.  I ditched my panster* status and went to putting a structure on the idea I had.  Next was a conference where I learned the first draft is only the beginning.  Bob Dugoni, a great speaker, said it was like climbing Everest.  The first time you are just happy to get there.  The next times are where you carve a clearer path.  After many trips and a lot more practice, you can bring someone with you.  (That’s you, reader.)  The conference also brought the realization in the need of critique partners, which I was lucky to find two I’m very happy with.  (Here’s Amy’s view of the process.)  But in all this desire to create a better product, process partnered up with patience for a double punch of difficult for me.

Accepting the process is easier said than done for a person who feels the need to fill in every second of the day with something.  This may explain my new addiction to Pinterest or diving head first into baked goods.  It’s not because I don’t want to write.  It’s the opposite, I’m jonesin’ to get back to the WIP.  I want to roll around in it, cover myself head to toe with the characters and immerse myself back into that world.  I even want to jump in the query process, cross fingers, and hope this is the time.  Those are all my gut instincts, and in true Costanza fashion, I have to resist.

It’s going to take all my energy to embrace this new frenemy of mine, process.  We’ve had our disagreements in the past where I left shaking my head and wondered what process was thinking.  There’s frustration with the time taken when going through the systematic series.  I’ll even admit there has been a few cuss words thrown around because of it.  And they weren’t the funny kind.  But one thing I have come to give process in this writing journey is respect.

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Pulling Teeth

“I want to pull out all my teeth,” said my six year old daughter.

We have a bedtime ritual of laying together for fifteen uninterrupted minutes after a hectic day.  The conversation usually includes strange questions about death, the updates about how many girls are in her first grade class, or singing made up songs with strange rhymes.  This was the first of some kind of weird bodily harm.

“Why do you want to do that?” I said.

“Because everyone else is losing all their baby teeth and I’m the only one left.”

“I’m sure there are others in your class who haven’t.”

“Marissa is the only other one and now she has a wiggly tooth.  Right here.”  Her finger crammed into her small mouth to point out the area of wiggle.  She pushed against hers and it’s solid as a rock.

“Don’t worry, it will happen.”

“I don’t like to be behind everyone else.”

“It’s not a race.”  This statement is a regular feature in my daughter’s life who is as competitive as her mother and has the same lack of patience.

“The dentist told Daddy last time that I’m behind and it’s going to be a long time.  I wish all the teeth in my mouth were gone.”

This statement is most ironic since I just finished paying a very large bill to have a slew of cavities filled.  There are hundreds of dollars stuffed into the crevices of her teeth which would have fallen out if we hadn’t done something.  This doesn’t even include all the additional mouth care purchased to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“You would look pretty funny with no teeth.  If you rush it by pulling them out before they’re ready, the adult ones won’t come in and you’ll be toothless for a long time.  You wouldn’t be able to chomp on carrots, nuts, or anything else hard.”

“That’s okay.  I like mashed potatoes,” she said quite content to a life of spuds.  I kissed her on the head, asked her stay my little girl a little longer, and not do anything reckless to knock out all her teeth.

Her story reminded me of my own impatience nagging the back of my mind with wanting to rush through the big edit on my current work in progress.  I listened to all the writerly advice and have given some time after finishing before diving back into the edit.  I mentally warn myself to take the time to reading and re-read before making any changes or sending to my shiny new critique partners.  My mantra “it’s going to take time” is a daily reminder no good will come if I rush it.  If I make a rash decision to start querying before the manuscript has matured, I’ll only end up looking foolish like a little girl with no teeth in her mouth.

As my daughter pointed out, this is made more difficult by seeing the toothless smiles of those around us.  It’s not that we’re jealous of them (okay, maybe a little jealous but still happy).  But we get fidgety about when it will be our turn.  She and I both understand others reaching their goals has no bearing on whether we do or not, but it’s a reminder of the possibility.  And hearing about the excitement of putting the envelope under your pillow to wait for a quarter to magically appear or the announcement of signing with an agent only makes it more torturous to have to wait.

I’ll try to be the adult here and remind both of us “it’s not a race.”  I know if we continue forward with what we’ve been doing, inevitably it will happen.  She will grow up, lose her baby teeth and be less of my little girl every day.  I will type on the computer, write stories, keep learning, and hope to have an agent announcement of my own one day.  It will be interesting to see who out of the two of us will reach her goal first.  And let us all hope I reach my goal before my daughter reaches a ripe old age where she has to be concerned about keeping the permanent ones.

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