An Open Letter to the Impatient Novelist

Dear Novelist-who-wants-to-have-written:

Aren’t you tired of hearing “You must do the work,” from all and sundry corners of the online writing community? Isn’t it hard to wait on your own brain when everything else your other organs can do seems so immediate? 


It took less time for your surgery scar to fade than for your novel’s Act II to come into focus, for Pete’s sake. That seems like the height of unfair.

I know. I’ve been in this place where you are, feeling like you’re rolling a stone up a hill, in a Sisyphean act that surely will get you nowhere.

Because that’s the problem, isn’t it? The fear that no matter how much work you’ll do, you’ll get nowhere. It’ll get you a grave just like the rest of us. If you’re lucky, someone at your funeral services will remember that way you had with words, and tell the eulogist to please mention it, as it would’ve meant so much to you.

That’s not the way I want to go out, either, with only my family and closest friends knowing depths of my desire to just be with words for a living, how capable I was at my art. Nor should you desire that. Writers may not seek center stage, but we sure do want to be heard. Preferably by as many souls as possible.

So what should you do if you’re impatient? Just learn to wait well?

Well, that would help, but that isn’t the whole story. Instead, here’s the truth of it: You’re an impatient writer. You’re impatient. You have the feeling of impatience. It’s there. There’s no arguing it. It isn’t going away.

What I suggest you do, instead of merely learning to wait well, is to savor this uncomfortable feeling, impatience. Let it be the one to lift the covers off your sleeping body every morning, let it be the one brewing one last pot of coffee at night when the house has gone dark and you’re so near to giving in to sleep that you can feel one eye closing in defiance of the perking loveliness of coffee in the air.

Like a climbing vine, impatience can be a worthwhile addition to the garden of your art. You should not kill it, or dull it with waiting well. Think of the vine; think of digging it up and planting it in the corners where you need a little vertical growth and movement.

Let impatience carry you forward into the small morning hours. Let it whisper to you when the marathon of your favorite TV show enters its third hour. Let it gnaw while you’re in the car, so your first impulse when you stick the key in the lock of your front door is not to flop on the couch but to flop your hands on the keyboard, and wait, impatiently, for the words and the wonder you just know you’ve got hidden away to reveal themselves.

Impatience demands your art of you. Impatience is the conveyor belt rolling out all that baggage. It’s why you write one page instead of one paragraph. It’s why you research simultaneous submissions while you’re on your lunch break at work. It’s why you pay for the forever stamps in case your contest only accepts paper submissions, and it’s why you’ve memorized your Submittable login credentials.

It’s good to be an impatient writer, isn’t it?