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:
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” 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. You can’t expect your ideas 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.”
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.”
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. You’ve already unlocked two doors, and you 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.”
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. 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.
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.
 C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume Three (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 94.
 C.H. Spurgeon, The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition of John Ploughman’s Talk and John Ploughman’s Pictures (Christian Focus Publications, 2007), 286.
 Joanna Penn, How to Market a Book (Curl Up Press), 45.
 Joanna Penn, How to Market a Book (Curl Up Press), 129.
Originally published on June 11, 2018. Updated February 13, 2023.
Mariposa Aristeo is a writer of quirky characters and fantastical adventures filled with heart, humor, hope, and, very often, dinosaurs. If you can’t find her in one of her own imaginary worlds, try combing the pages of a great middle-grade fantasy novel.
At Story Embers, igniting (and sometimes imploding) ideas is her favorite pastime, so she often uses her creativity to make graphics for articles and writing quotes, as well as implement new strategies for SE’s social media channels. Explosions aside, she loves getting to know each and every writer here at SE by running the popular #embersgram hashtag on Instagram and responding to your questions and emails.
Besides being a co-owner of Story Embers, Mariposa is an ACFW First Impressions contest finalist, a children’s book illustrator, and the host of the IGTV series #middlegrademagicwithmari. You can check out her book recommendations (and shenanigans) on her Instagram page or her character sketches on her art account.