This morning, I stumbled across a brief interview with a young Whiting Award-winning writer, Kaitlyn Greenidge, in the September 2017 issue of The Writer. She was asked: “What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?” Her response:
“I think that it takes a long time. There is no rushing it, and the work exists on its own timetable, outside of your own personal deadlines.“
My first thought was, Oh, wow, now I know why I’m having such a hard time finishing that short story I want to finish. And reading on, the next question was “How has this helped you as a writer?” Greenidge’s response: “It is hard to be patient, but that’s what is needed.”
It certainly is hard to be patient in a world of impatience, populated with people who want instant gratification. Including me. As a writer, I know from personal experience that a story cannot be rushed. I know that characters exist in their own universe and their time is not my time. Hard as I try, the characters will do what they will, live as they will, speak as they will.
But I start to feel guilty when I don’t have the time to spend with the characters and their stories. I’ve felt this acute guilt the last 3 months as I’ve been getting used to a new fulltime job and the 5-day-a-week schedule that goes with it. I think about the various projects that await my attention. I read and read and read, which is valuable for a writer in and of itself. The actual writing I’ve been doing during the week has been focused on business writing, not creative writing. The weekend comes and suddenly I’m up to my ears in chores, catching up with e-mail, working on blog posts. I have not written in my journal for 2 years. Every day I get up and think, something’s got to change.
I can only hope that my characters won’t abandon me. I have not abandoned them. I’d much rather be spending time with them. And I am starting to figure out ways to shift when I do chores, when I do e-mail, etc. My goal is to empty my weekend schedule so that I can spend 2 days writing fiction.
It took me years to write Perceval’s Secret. I thought I knew Evan Quinn after I finished the first draft, but as I delved deeper into researching conducting and conductors, I found I didn’t know as much as I thought. Research will do that. And Evan was slow to trust me with his real story. But once I had the uninterrupted time to spend with him, he began to talk…and talk and talk and talk. He simply would not shut up, and talked out 5 books instead of one. That’s fine. I’m certain that once I’m back in the swing on fiction again, he’ll return with more information so I can finish his story.
So, I’m learning patience with myself and my work schedule, and learning how to shift things around to accommodate my writing. It’s a slow process. But I have to think that characters also need to be patient with their writers, i.e. my characters patient with me.
Are you a patient writer? How long does it take your stories to emerge? Have your characters been patient with you?