Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning Patience as a Writer

by Tanya Parker Mills

What might Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life (on radio and television), have in common with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an apostle of Jesus Christ? Besides the fact that they're both men, sons of God, and well-known in their own spheres, they seem to share a common attitude about life that we, as writers, should definitely apply to our craft and profession.

Ira Glass put it this way during a presentation on storytelling:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go though this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you’ve got to know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s going to take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just got to fight your way through.”

President Uchtdorf phrased it a bit differently:

“Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardships, with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!”

Both men have learned that excellence is a life-long process, requiring a lot of work and a tenacity that doesn't falter in the face of disappointment or failure. As writers, we need to let go of that last story or poem or novel and forge ahead with new ones. Every piece we create brings us that much closer to the perfect work we have in our hearts and minds. There is a reason why most novelists don't get published until their sixth or seventh novel is completed. We've just got to fight our way through, enduring well.

5 comments:

  1. This can be hard to accept, but it's true. The road is often long...

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  2. Thanks, Tanya. I needed to read this today. very well said!

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  3. Like so many things, the enduring ( also an action verb) is often the most rewarding in the long run. Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. I personally hate the word endure so how did I end up in the church? Truth plain and simple. I still hate it tho.

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