To go a bit further along the road laid by my last blog post, it might be expedient to work on the
virtue that's not always accessible to the author: patience. The threads of impatience start to weave their basketry into the brain the instant one half of a novel is laid down in draft form.
Authors are impatient to finish, to start on rewriting, impatient to finish that as well, so their beta-readers can have their first glimpses of this long-awaited new work. Then authors are extremely impatient to hear back from their readers with praise (or otherwise), and how they can go about improving an already tremendous novel.
They can't wait for their editors to finish, already! Get on with it, hurry. Authors want to get the work typeset, formatted, out there in the queue for uploading to the ethereal place they cannot even imagine; that literary sausage-machine from which each book emerges into the world. And then from there into the metaphorical brown paper-bag. The book pops, warm from recent production, in front of the eyes of the readers of the world.
The world! Impatience for a book to be available to the world is so strong in an author that hardly any are of the opinion that waiting is good for them. Why should anyone wait? The longer a book languishes out of sight - out of the reach of purchasers - the longer it might take for them to access acclaim.
Acclaim? Renown? Okay - fame, perhaps. Or at least knowledge of one's name in a tight band of faithful followers of their particular genre.
It happens eventually, they believe, all these hopeful authors who cannot wait to type that last full stop. It's inevitable that good work will rise to the top and receive attention. Eventually, readers in their thousands will line up to buy that last full stop. How long is "eventually"?"
"It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo" PG Wodehouse.Results are not only hard to get, they are also hard to gauge, to measure, to ascertain with any reasonable accuracy. It's almost impossible to know whether anyone actually reads one's work, unless a review is written and posted somewhere.
And authors are so impatient for reviews.
Eventually can be a very long time. Overnight success does happen - but it takes ages. The myth of instant acclaim, however, is so well ingrained in popular storytelling about celebrities of all kinds that it's now impossible to erase. We can't destroy the myth that if writers all do exactly what the last miracle author did, they'd all have the same kind of success.
Elementary mathematics and common sense show us it's impossible, of course. How can all authors be equally famous? How can even a third of all authors currently impatient to see a surge in sales have their wish come true? It's been proven a dozen times that there aren't enough shelves in the world, enough reading devices, enough readers, to make this happen.
Patience, then, must be accompanied by reason. But how many impassioned eager creative people have that? If one had reason tempered by an understanding of statistics, by probability theory, and perhaps a touch of practicality, one would take up a career in anything but writing.
Leave a comment - speak your thoughts. Define your own way of seeing impatience. Or perhaps you might have a new way to explain how long "eventually" is!