Thursday, June 23, 2011

The P Word

Not too long ago I was having a conversation that I think many writers end up having with their loved ones. Mine was with my mother, around the time I was deep in the query process, full manuscripts out to agents, and (though I didn’t know it at the time) a few weeks away from an offer of representation. The gist of the conversation was: “How exactly does this process of getting a book published work?”

This is the good question, and one that doesn’t come from every person you have a casual conversation with about your dream of being a published author. This question comes from the people who are truly invested in your success, in most cases out of love. My parents have always been supportive of my dream (including when I decided to get my BA in something-that-will-never-get-you-a-real-job-aka-liberal-arts), and I was happy to share the excitement, the woes, and everything in between.

So I gave my mom the rundown of how querying works, including all the research involved, the dreaded query letter, and, of course, the waiting and the rejections. We also talked about what exactly an agent does and why (in my opinion) they’re a good thing to have. Once I had offers and needed to make my choice, I shared that process with her. Once I signed, I explained what comes next – including revisions and the submission process, which includes more waiting and more rejections!

During one of these conversations, my mom said she was really proud of me for being patient. At the time, I got warm fuzzies and said thanks.

But now I’m pretty sure being patient doesn’t have a damn thing to do with this process.

I’m the most IMpatient person I have EVER met in my ENTIRE life. This ranges from jittering in my seat when I have to sit still and be quiet too long, to buying everything I want the moment I see it which results in angry friends when they don’t know what the hell to buy me for my birthdays or Christmas. When a website takes too long to load, I flail around and whine about it, and even cuss it out – then return to my shiny, happy self as soon as the website/computer program/life does what I wanted it to do five seconds ago.

For example, I was at the bookstore yesterday, and instead of just ordering Clash of Kings since B&N was sold out, I bought the boxed set which includes a book I already had so I could have it NOW (even though I had two books I wanted to read before I’d start Clash of Kings anyway). And consider this: If Erik goes to the bathroom while we’re out at a restaurant, I make him leave his smartphone with me so I have something to do while I wait for him to come back.

And while I was on query, I stared at my inbox for hours, feeling like I was going to burst into flames if I didn’t get an email in the next two seconds. I was impatient the ENTIRE TIME. Statistics and logic didn’t sate me, nor did average response times or website guidelines or encouraging blog posts or success stories. It didn’t matter than this is my greatest dream – it only made me MORE impatient because I wanted my dream to happen YESTERDAY. And now that I have an agent, I'm STILL impatient!

So say thank you when someone compliments your patience, because it makes them proud of you and, quite frankly, makes you look all mature and shit. But behind closed doors where no one can see or hear? Stop those feet and whine like crazy if it helps you cope. It just means you're normal.

But the P word they’re really looking for is perseverance. And I don’t think any of us would be wherever we are – be it writing a first draft, revising, querying or on submission, or even waiting for our book’s release date – without it. I don't hold any high expectations that I'm going to magically become patient any time soon, but I certainly have no intentions of giving up.