Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Praising Impatience

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On Tuesday I posted an interview with the lovely Vikki VanSickle about writing while working in publishing (WWWIP, for short). The quote from her that stuck out the most for me was this:

"Learn to get comfortable with patience, the most elusive of virtues. Anything that's worth having is worth waiting for."

Yes, I thought to myself, absolutely. Patience is the key.

But, see, the thing is - I am maybe the least patient person you've ever met.

It was a punchline at parties when I was little. Relatives who came bearing gifts of clothing at Christmas or on my birthday would be treated to an instant fashion show as I raced to my room to try on my new duds and then wore them for the rest of the night.

I churned out zines in high school over the course of a single day, and once over the course of a spare period.

And when I decided that it was finally time to live in a place that didn't look like a university dorm, I trashed (or gave away) absolutely everything that didn't fit with my vision - notably a perfectly functional but super-ugly futon - to achieve the look I wanted as quickly as humanly possible.

What it all come down to is that I would like everything now, please.

So, naturally, I would spend my life working at both sides of the table in the slowest-moving industry possible.

And publishing is slow for a reason. Books take time to write. They take time to read and time to edit. They take time to pitch and time to revise. There's time to proofread and fact-check, time to design, time to market and time to physically (or electronically) produce.

You gleefully sign a contract for a book that won't be out in the world for another two years or more.

And for an impatient person - which, after all the work of getting a manuscript into the hands of a publisher who will agree to take you on as an author, is probably everyone - this feels like someone has promised you a frosting-heaped cinnamon bun the size of your head which can be claimed in 25 years' time.

And don't get me wrong, a writer needs patience. Through every step of the process you need the good sense to let your publisher do their job the best way they know how, and the ability to sit back and wait for it all to happen.

But if, like me, you will never be accused of being someone who possessed that crucial virtue, there is still hope.

And while it's not to say that an obsessive desire to make sure things are constantly in motion is something I'd recommend anyone try to cultivate, I will say that, for me, impatience gets things done.

While I was waiting for my first book to come out, I wrote my second book.

While I was querying and submitting my second book to publishers, I wrote my third book.

And while I was waiting for anyone at all to pay attention to what I was doing - after several false starts and abandoned beginnings of projects that went nowhere - I wrote a draft of a fourth book.

Impatience is what has kept me writing.

So while I have the greatest possible respect for the writer who spends months and years turning perfect sentences into perfect paragraphs and produces a book once every ten years, I know that that's never going to be me. And that's okay.

My way is not any better - in fact, it's probably much, much worse - but it's how I get things done.

Still, I'm trying.

For the last little while, I've been kicking around a project idea in my head. It's a story that I've been obsessed with since I was a teenager, but the world-building necessary to do the idea justice means that this project, if I run with it, may take me years to complete. For me, this sounds nearly impossible.

Cue the G N' R.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.