Thursday, April 26, 2007

As Many Times as it Takes

Posted by Lynne

In parenting, small actions make a big difference in a child's ability to learn. Take the classic power struggle at the crosswalk. A four-year-old boy runs up to the walk signal. He presses the button convinced the more he pushes it, the sooner the word walk will flash permission to cross. His mother cautions him to wait for her. She offers, at first, a sing-song kind of warning. Then she raises her voice in frustration. Later, in fear she yells. But the boy, as little boys will do, dashes across the street with confidence, or perhaps he's simply unaware of the danger of rushing.

When I talk with parents about this or any other predictable behavior, I recommend taking small action, proactively. This mother's power lies, not in reacting to a situation that doesn't go as she's hoped, it lies in taking small action before getting anywhere near the crosswalk the next time. When I tell parents that the best strategy is to take small action-- reach down and take a child's hand-- inevitably, I'm asked the same question. "How many times will I have to do that before he learns what to do?"

My answer--as many times as it takes.

In writing, as in parenting, oodles of patience is required. I've sat in countless writers' workshops and gone to many author events and like a bell ringing at the end of class, someone asks one of the following questions. How many agents should I submit to, before I give up? How many novels did you write before you got your first one published? How many times do you recommend a writer revise a manuscript?

The answer to all of these questions? As many times as it takes.

Patience is a value. Patience is a skill. Patience is hard to have when you want to write well and share your work with readers, more than anything in the world. Like the mother at the crosswalk, teaching her little one to follow the rules, writers must learn similar lessons. Wait until it's time. Be cautious. Let others help you. Learn from your mistakes. And, of course, no need to rush; you will get to the other side in due time.

For those of you who know me, you see the irony in my post this morning, since I'm not famous for my patience. It's true, I can be impatient. And yet, it will be seven years from idea to published parenting book. It's been five years from first query to first national parenting magazine assignment. Six months after completing my novel, I'm still revising. Maybe like me, you struggle with patience. That doesn't mean you don't have it. The path to patience is small action. Each day, take one step toward your goal, whatever it may be. Each step brings you a little closer to your destination. Small actions accumulate, and one day you'll be on the other side. On to the next intersection.

11 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Lynne, I'm right there with you in your seven year book gestation (and in not being as patient as I'd like to be). You have such a good message here--thanks for reminding me. Things take as along as they take.

Therese said...

Seems to me, from your account, and the proof of Judy's and my own experiences, that recognizing one's impatience may well be a key to conquering it.

We are all succeeding as writers, seemingly in spite of our impatience. Interesting, isn't it?

The Writers' Group said...

Judy,

For many, seven is the luckiest number. So, lucky us! I'm glad my post was a good reminder to you. I wrote to share my thoughts, but also to remind myself.

Therese,

Recognizing one's impatience may well be a key to conquering it.

I love your insight. So much so that the tag line for my next parenting book is "become aware, choose to change."

Thank you both for posting comments. I feel like we're old friends catching up over coffee.

Lynne

Larramie said...

Patience, along with common sense, tend to go hand-in-hand. Yes, I realize the urge for instant gratification, but -- when once we've obtained or accomplished one thing -- there's always something else.

Judy, Therese and you, Lynne, have had to wait your turn; however, there's also much you've enjoyed in the waiting process. And my feeling is that you wouldn't change those years because that would be changing you.

Melissa Marsh said...

I needed to hear this. My patience wears very thin on those days when I obsessively check my email inbox for word from the agents who have my partials. I want it to happen NOW since I've been after this career for so long. But I keep telling myself, "All in God's time." :-)

P.S. - I nominated this blog for the Thinking Bloggers Award! Check out my blog for details.

The Writers' Group said...

Larramie,

I admit I haven't enjoyed the journey as much as I should have, but indeed I am a better person for it.

Lynne

The Writers' Group said...

Melissa,

Hang in there. Waiting for *the call* is hard, but staying focused on the words, all in God's time, will see you through.

Thank you for nominating us for the Thinkers Blog Award. We are honored to be in such fine company!

Lynne

Therese said...

That tag line is terrific! I see it on bumper stickers and t-shirts and bracelets and posters and paperweights...

Yep, my business background, running amok.

Therese said...

That is, I can see it...

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, if only I could get some of the 5 children who live under my roof to embrace that phrase . . . but that gets me right back to Lynne's original point doesn't it?

Next week, ladies, let's splurge for gooey coffeecake with the coffee, okay?

The Writers' Group said...

Judy, any time you want to drop in on one of our writers' groups, just let me know and I'll make the gooey coffeecake. Lynne, I love this post and will have to read- and re-read it to remind myself to focus on the moment. Truly inspired.

Amy