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4 Types of Patience Every Writer Needs to Unlock Success

June 11, 2018

You’ve undoubtedly read an article titled “365 Ways to Set Yourself up for Success” or something like that. The internet is loaded with information on self-promotion and increasing the zeros in one’s bank account. However, success is dependent on much more than marketing techniques and get-rich-quick schemes. Ask any author and they’ll tell you the key to success lies in a single word:

 

Patience.

 

This is an attribute few of us have, and the ones who manage to obtain it haven’t the sense to know what to do with it. We need to pick up patience and jam it into the keyhole before we lose it again. But once that door opens, we think:

 

Oh darn, another door.

 

Don’t worry; patience has four different keys that are guaranteed to unlock any bolt on any door.

 

Key #1: Patience with Yourself  

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance”[1] wrote Charles Spurgeon, and this is true for everything—practical and spiritual. Whoever thinks their writing is perfect has so little wisdom that they could engrave it on the back of a cashew shell and still have ample room to spare. The only way to become a master is by acknowledging weaknesses.

 

Your stories lack depth, your characters are devoid of personality, and you haven’t the faintest idea where to place those troublesome em dashes. Instead of moaning over your poor skills, use your energy to identify your problem(s), gather the information to correct the issue, and then apply that knowledge to your work. If you lose patience with yourself and quit because you can’t measure up to your self-imposed standards, you will never get anywhere.

 

Also, you must be patient with your growth. Don’t lose heart if you aren’t progressing as rapidly as your peers or your writing isn’t as good as others who have less experience. Watching others speed past the finish line is discouraging, but remember that each person is different. You shouldn’t expect to grasp a concept as quickly as someone else, because you aren’t them. That person doesn’t think exactly like you or learn at the same pace, and maybe they’ve had more opportunities to mature in that area than you have. Dwelling on other people’s accomplishments will only stunt your growth. Children do not all grow at an identical rate, and neither do we. God makes you grow only as fast as you need to and no faster. But sometimes, by learning slowly, you may become more knowledgeable in the end than the sharpest learner.

 

Key #2: Patience with Your Work

Masters need patience as much as beginners—perhaps even more so, because they realize they’re talented, yet their work isn’t always up to par with their ability as soon as they’d like. Our ideas cannot be expected to shine brilliantly overnight. Or in a week. Or in a month. Sometimes not even in a year. The story burning in your heart is worth all the time in the world—don’t rush it. To quote Spurgeon once again, “Rome was not built in a day, nor much else, unless it be a dog kennel.”[2]

 

I originally planned to release my first book by December 2016. Don’t bother searching for me on Amazon, because I still haven’t published that book. Why? The main reason was that I wanted my book to be the best it could possibly be. That meant more rewriting, more studying the writing craft, and more time spent staring at a blank screen. What was I getting out of it? Certainly no money or rave reviews. But I had the satisfaction of knowing I was crafting a quality work for future readers, and that was ten times better than earning a few dollars now for another less-than-spectacular novel.

 

To achieve your greatest dream, sometimes you must be willing to sacrifice your current desires and pour more time, effort, and money into your work for your own benefit and that of readers. Joanna Penn noted this in How to Market a Book when she quoted Hugh Howey: “The biggest barrier to releasing quality material is probably impatience.”[3]

 

The other reason I postponed my book launch was for my happiness. By hurrying, I was hurting myself. Writing was no longer fun and became a chore. I took a step back so I could enjoy life—and writing—again. We miss so many little things when our heads are buried in plots. Writing at your own leisure may seem selfish, but it’s not. When you write simply to get it done, your work will be lackluster. A quote on Pinterest by Joseph Joubert says, “Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader.”

 

Key #3: Patience with Your Platform

The door to public exposure is stiff even with the keys of patience. We’ve already unlocked two doors, and we just want to break down this one—but that’s not how you gain entry. Your platform, like your book, requires time to construct.

 

Some of the greatest authors weren’t famous until after their deaths. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have to wait that long, but you must be willing to start small and resist the temptation to take leaping bounds. Every writer begins with nothing, but that shouldn’t discourage you from working hard even if you don’t receive an instant return on your investment. Joanna Penn says, “Building a platform is cumulative, but a little every day adds up over time. The trick is not to go into it looking for direct results within the first few weeks or months, but to enter with a spirit of service and generosity for your community and the people you hope to attract.”[4]

 

Also, platforming often involves rerouting your path. New York Times best-selling author, Joanna Penn, created two unsuccessful websites before launching The Creative Penn, which later was voted as one of the top blogs for writers. I found this true for myself as well. After creating two unsuccessful blogs, I wondered if I should give up blogging. I decided to build yet another site, using all that I’d learned from my past experiences. Some might consider those past blogs a failure, but I don’t, because they directed me to the right path. So be patient with dusty detours, because they’ll land you right where you need to be in the end.

 

Key #4: Patience with God’s Plans

“Commit your way to the Lord” (Psalm 37:5) is the most important key. Being patient with yourself, your work, and your platform is pointless if you’re impatient with God. All your plans, goals, and dreams are in His hands, so the number of marketing techniques you’ve tried doesn’t matter. I have a friend who loathes networking, but she doubted she could get anywhere without it. A year later, God placed an opportunity in her hands to advance her career, without the slightest bit of marketing on her part.

 

I’m not advising anyone to abandon marketing. After all, God helps those who help themselves. But our success is ultimately dependent on what God does—not us—and He will bring it about in His timing. Those of us who are still under thirty have trouble remembering this. Our eyes twinkle at the prospect of becoming famous in our youth. But haven’t you noticed that God prefers to grant success to the aged? Look at Jacob, for instance. He worked for Laban over fourteen years before he received any monetary compensation. Or consider David. As a teenager, he was a mere shepherd, and he spent the remainder of his youth fleeing in the wilderness. He wasn’t crowned king until he reached thirty (2 Samuel 5:4).

 

If God handed us immediate success, we’d be tempted to magnify ourselves and our accomplishments. In addition, He knows that we’ll be better equipped to handle the responsibilities associated with success when we’re older. Perhaps God also does this for our joy since the waiting, working, and dreaming makes triumph so satisfying.

 

Success Unlocked

All creatives will benefit from exerting patience—even non-Christians. It’s the one virtue that will guide us to success. And when I mention success, I mean much more than adding seven hundred new subscribers to our email lists. Patience can indeed pay off that way and often does—but it pays us with something more valuable than popularity. It furnishes our manuscripts with quality, depth, and meaning. Even if our admirers are few, they will be dedicated ones, because we took the time to give them a book worth the admiration.

 

[1] C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume Three (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 94.

[2] C.H. Spurgeon, The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition of John Ploughman’s Talk and John Ploughman’s Pictures (Christian Focus Publications, 2007), 286.

[3] Joanna Penn, How to Market a Book (Curl Up Press), 45.

[4] Joanna Penn, How to Market a Book (Curl Up Press), 129.

6 Comments

  1. Coralie

    Patience can be a slippery thing some times, but it will lead to such reward! I love how you break these different areas down. It’s a wonderful reminder that we have to have grace and we have to give grace. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Mariposa Aristeo

      Thank you for reading! Patience is something God has placed on my heart recently and writing about my problems always helps me to overcome them and trust Him.

  2. Sageinthemeadow

    Thank you for this article! You really put into words the thoughts and feelings I’ve been having lately. I shouldn’t feel guilty about the rate of my progress. I know I’ll get there, I just don’t know when -and that’s okay!

    Reply
    • Mariposa Aristeo

      You’re welcome! I’ve been impatient with myself too and it can be hard not to rush myself. I’m glad this encouraged you. 😊

  3. Jonathan Wong

    Thank you for writing this. Since discovering places like Kingdom Pen, the Young Writer’s Workshop, Story Embers; and hearing about such magnificent names as Daeus Lamb, Josiah DeGraaf – you know, pretty much everyone who’s leading this project 😉 – I’ve struggled with feelings of jealousy towards other young Christian writers, which now I understand to be stemming from impatience with the timing of my life. I think about their success, and I look at my hands greasy from working in a warehouse, and think about the schooling I’ll have to go through to get a decent job that pays the bills but doesn’t set my heart on fire – and the jealousy and impatience that comes is too all natural.
    But as you said, “If God handed us immediate success, we’d be tempted to magnify ourselves and our accomplishments.” Knowing my thoughts as I do, that rings all too true.
    Thank you again, and God bless you, and God bless your pen.

    Reply
    • Mariposa Aristeo

      You’re welcome! I’ve been jealous too at times, wondering why other writers were succeeding and I wasn’t. I forget God has my future in His hands and will give me what I need in His timing. 🙂

      Another angle that’s easy to forget is that the grass always looks greener on the other side; one author may look very successful even though in reality they’re struggling building a platform, pitching their book, etc. We all have struggles, but God uses those to refine us. Thank you for your comment and I’m glad my article encouraged you. 🙂

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