Sunday, July 17, 2011

Learning Patience

I have had my current work in progress in my mind since I was seventeen. After all of these years, and one actual incarnation on the page, the plot has changed and the characters have changed. Hell, I'VE changed, so it should come as no surprise that the sum of the whole would change as well.

You would think that after 20+ years of working a story in my mind, patience would be the last thing I was struggling with. But that's exactly where I find myself today. I'm impatient with finding time to write. I'm impatient with my characters. I'm impatient with my story development (could we please just get to that pivotal scene?).

This has been an interesting thing for me to witness about myself and my story. I am, by nature, a very patient person. I'm seldom in a rush to do anything and am very methodical in most aspects of my life.

So when my story started rushing me, I became a bit disconcerted. I had to pull back on the reins and throw the hand brake to slow the steeds down. But they didn't want to slow down. I tossed an anchor and still the story continued to try my patience, digging a rut into the dirt behind the wagon running out of control.

In times of anxiety I have learned how to stop, breathe, re-evaluate and proceed. But the story seems to have taken on a life of its own. I mentioned in a previous post that when the story finally found the exit, the light caused it to pause and lumber for a bit as it gained its footing. Now the beast has not only gained its footing, it has been rested, watered, fed and been let loose to run. And man is it running.

I want a good story. I want a story that is timeless and beloved by everyone that reads it. I would think we all want that or the idea of writing would mean nothing to any of us. There is a strong urge deep down that almost wants to get out of the way of the story and let it run unfettered to go where it wants to go. But there is no discipline in that and the story, in my opinion, would lose its way. My job as the author is to give it discipline and structure and a sense of direction. Not unlike a child, the story requires me to raise it from infancy to maturity and, most importantly, to hold it accountable to the reader.

The greatest test for me will not be finishing this story. It will get done and it will either be published or be put away as I write something new. The greatest test will be how well I ride herd on it. I must manage my story's expectations but more importantly I need to manage mine.

Today I will stop, breathe, re-evaluate and proceed. If that doesn't work maybe we'll have to discuss a timeout.

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