This month we're talking about writing gifts, both physical and intangible. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd like to receive this year, and I decided that the one gift I need and would appreciate most is one that I can actually give to myself:
I am by nature a very impatient person. If the bus won't come for ten minutes, I will walk to my destination, even if it takes me thirty minutes to get there. I'm impatient with people, too, if they're taking a long time to call me back or read something I've asked them to. But over all I am impatient with myself. Impatient and thoroughly unrealistic.
For example, I like to think that I can write a rough draft of a book in two months (I cannot; it usually takes me seven). I like to think that when revising, I can successfully rewrite three chapters a day (I cannot; a good chapter revision usually takes me anywhere from two to ten days). And I like to think that, if I really put my mind to it, I can write two novels, a picture book, and three short stories in one single year (I cannot, I cannot, I cannot). I plan to do all these things -- put them on my to-do list and everything. And when I don't achieve them, I am frustrated with myself. Instead of celebrating all I have done in an hour or a day or a year, I focus on what I haven't.
It can be hard to be patient with yourself when you're a writer who's full of ideas for future projects. Or even just a writer who wants to do so many things: make an awesome book trailer, seek out more school visits, start writing that picture book she's always meant to work on . . . Life is short, and there's so much I want to do in it.
But I know, when I'm having one of my more sane moments, that I won't do anything well unless I give myself the time to do it. Unless I'm patient with myself, and allow myself to move at the speed I actually work at (as opposed to the speed my crazy imagination thinks I should work at). Writing is not something to be rushed.
And so, Lisa Graff, as 2011 comes to an end, I give you the gift of patience. Please, do me a favor and actually use it.