One time, ,when I was very little, I climbed a tree and ate these green, sour apples. My stomach swelled and became hard like a drum, it hurt a lot. Mother said that if I’d just waited for the apples to ripen, I wouldn’t have become sick. So now, whenever I really want something, I try to remember what she said about the apples.
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
I often think I was put on this earth for the sole purpose of learning patience. Though I am SO much better than I was 25 years ago, I suppose I will wrestle with patience all of my life.
It’s enough, I tell myself, to wait for things like houses, websites, businesses to get off the ground, to recover from a cold–do I have to exercise patience in my creative life as well?
Yep. Without a doubt. In so many ways. Sigh.
Wait for the amorphous inkling to coalesce into a character or plot.
Wait through the cutting and pressing to assemble a quilt top.
Wait for paint to dry to add the next layer.
Wait for adhesive to set, wait for materials to be purchased, wait for this, wait for that.
It’s all tolerable because I am a maker. It’s what I do, and patience is necessary. I’m fairly good at pacing myself and keeping steady momentum whether I’m writing a draft, assembling a mixed media piece, or binding an art quilt.
Except for one element.
It’s the span of time a draft is resting that fills me with the most impatient frustration. Why, when I want so much to be one of those authors who publishes six or eight times a year. When my drafts come so fast, why must I be the writer whose novels must rest for upwards of two years?
Perhaps it’s simply another lesson in patience, or the price for other elements coming easily. Perhaps I am to easily frustrated with myself, too stubborn to accept reality.
Like eating green apples, I’ve felt the discomfort of not waiting. An unripened draft leads me to fret, struggle, and whine. I can’t revise my way out of a paper bag. But if I wait, if I let the draft ripen and separate itself from me, revision is easier, cleaner, and almost enjoyable. It’s all about the emotional distance, and I simply need more time than most.
I feel the most common time for impatience for creatives of all types is when they are learning a new skill or a new medium. What is seen in the mind is so far removed from what appears from our fingers, it’s a wonder artists aren’t bald from pulling their hair out. All I can do is ask the new and the untried to be . . . yes . . . patient with themselves while getting through the first few projects. So much of what we learn is learned by doing, not by research beforehand. And thereafter, be patient with the elements of your process that just take more time than you would like.
For me, it’s absolutely a matter of patience, and I’m still learning that lesson. How about you?
What part of your creative life leaves you feeling impatient?
Even with the 700-900 word blog posts I write when I’m trying to say something near-serious, I find they have to sit in draft form for way longer than I want. I often think I’m too critical, but then, since I’m the only critic I listen to, maybe not.
Don’t take this the wrong way, Dan, but I’m glad I’m not alone . . .
Ha ha – I’m glad to be in good company, Robyn.