Christina Katz, who publishes The Prosperous Writer, has committed this year's 52 columns to discussing qualities writers should possess. This is Week 39, and she addresses patience.
She writes: The definition of patience describes the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
Can you bear it? Can you remain calm in the face of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like?
Oh, dear. Just this morning I snarled at Harpo, my marmalade cat, when he leaped up on the back of the chair and clawed my shoulder as I sat at my computer, finger poised to poke "send" to submit an entry to yet another anthology. It didn't help that Natty, the mutt, had wedged his snout between the armrest and my left wrist, or that Nami, the Akita, flanked my right side, panting heavily and licking my cheek. Then the Internet connection dissolved, and I gave up.
"Que sera," I hummed, dragged out the leashes. I took the felines and canines for a stroll through the back pasture. I combed Nami, who has entered a new shedding season, tossed some windfall apples to my neighbor's horses, breathed in some crisp October air and reconsidered.
Was my essay really ready to go out? Did it need revising or at least a little tweaking? Was I rushing to submit because I'm about ready to take off for Southern California for a visit with friends and relatives?
By the time I got back in the house the Internet mysteriously had reconnected. I looked through my piece. Nope. It was good to go. This time the animals flopped in the hallway and left me in peace. The story's off now into ether space.
Now here's where the real patience comes into play...the part that Christina didn't mention. The deadline for the piece I submitted today isn't until next March. Then it will be another month or so before the editor lets the writers know if they've been accepted. If I'm lucky and get accepted, several months more will pass before the book is printed. More time might elapse before I get my contributor's copy and/or a check.
Over two years ago I submitted a story that got accepted. The publisher kept pushing back the date of the book's appearance. Finally last month I got the book and the check. In another case, in mid-2008 I was delighted to learn a piece would be published in an Irish anthology for caregivers. I sent in my bio and waited. Five months ago I got an update...the book would be printed sometime this summer. It's now nearly November and the editor doesn't respond to my inquiries.
How do writers find the patience to deal with these endless delays and perpetual states of suspense? I rely on "the more the merrier." I submit stories to multiple publications, whenever it's allowed. I rewrite and resubmit my "orphans," stories previously rejected. And I try to come up with at least one or two new stories every month, no matter what else is circulating out there.
This morning when I snapped at my annoying beast, I'd had a morning filled with one frustration after another. It wasn't my dogs' fault they wanted an outing and some attention. They're human, too. Well...nearly. Hard-hearted Harpo's another matter though. He's sometimes just plain mean. It's his nature. He's a tom cat.
I realize that all this harping about Harpo and having to wait a year or two for a book or a check is silly, though, taking into consideration how long Samuel Clemens scholars and fans have waited for the publication of The Autobiography of Mark Twain. Clemens wanted his unexpurgated, unBowdlerized book to be published a century after his death in 1910. Various online book vendors advertise the book as available anywhere between October 29 and November 15. I've waited over fifty years for this book myself since reading the earlier heavily edited autobiography in the early sixties. And guess what? Thanks to technology, I just downloaded it onto my Kindle five minutes ago. I'll be reading it in on my trip to Southern California, at long, long, long last.
I love writing inspirational stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Cup of Comfort, Patchwork Path and Thin Threads, but not every story has a happy ending. And in my life, there's been some sadder experiences waiting to be told.
Not long ago at a membership meeting of the Colville branch of AAUW (American Association for University Women), we did a "getting to know you" exercise. Each of us revealed what is her favorite song and why. I wouldn't have guessed this in advance, but John Lennon's "In My Life," immediately came to mind. I've always been haunted by the lyrics...not the refrain of "in my life I love you more," but this:
Though I know I'll never lose affection For people and things that went before I know I'll often stop and think about them...
I think about those people, places and things all the time these days. I recall once learning in a psychology class about how older people do a kind of "life review." I'm that Older Person now. For the past four years I've successfully reviewed my life through writing my anthology stories. But I'm not Pollyanna, the Glad Girl. I can't find a silver lining to every event or experience.
So what do I do with these bittersweet or edgier stories that may not be altogether inspirational? Mike O'Mary answered that question for me, and other writers, when he established Dream of Things for creative non-fiction. This new series of anthologies provides an outlet for those of us who want to go just a little deeper in our self-examinations.
My story, "Dreaming as the Summers Die," appears in this beautiful new book, Saying Goodbye: to the people, places and things in our lives. I'm delighted to be part of this literary debut and look forward to writing other stories for this new series.