Anyone who knows me at all will tell you that patience is not my long suit. I once heard a prayer for patience that went “God, grant me patience, right now, please!” That would be me.
The silly thing is, I seem to choose arts that require patience. Printmaking, weaving, pottery – they’re all time-consuming, slow and, in the case of printmaking and pottery, indirect. Printmaking requires you to cut a backwards image to print on paper. In pottery the colours don’t even look right until they’ve been fired. In both, you can do a lot of work and find out at the end that you have to start over.
Why does this all sound so familiar right now as I labour on the third draft of The Swan Harp??
When I began spending a lot of time writing, I thought I’d hit the instant gratification motherlode. I was writing flash, after all. I could finish a story in an afternoon! Hooray!
Then I wrote that first novel. And now, once again, I’m up to my clavicle in delayed gratification and champing at the bit. This rewrite is going so slowly. I got an outline done yesterday, and started marking up my printout of the second draft.
The first draft seemed to go much more quickly; even the second draft I wrote in three weeks The changes I have to make now are deeper, and have as much to do with removing as with adding. I’m recreating some characters, writing a lot of new scenes, juggling stuff around. It’s all baby steps, and that sound you hear is me grinding my teeth at the glacial pace of it.
I’m not afraid of wrecking the story. I still have the file of my second draft, so if worse comes to worst and I totally screw it up, I can start over at Square Two. I’m just having trouble with my pace. I want to be a sprinter, and this is, dammit, a marathon. I’ve never done this before, and that makes it slower, too.
On the other hand, slow seems to work – eventually. At one of the quarterly writing binges, my friend Angie said it comforted her to hear me tapping away on my keyboard. I’m not the world’s fastest typist, but I plug along, and I get stuff done. She said that made her feel good, that even though I’m not fast, I do finish. I make progress. I might not be working at the speed of someone like Stephen King, who writes 2,000 words every day, but I’m working. I get there.
Excuse me, I have to go push my glacier a little farther..