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Writers: How A Little Patience Goes A Long Way Toward Success

patience for writersWhat is the secret to a long, successful career in publishing—full of many book publications, collections of poems and short stories, awards, and accolades for your creative writing?

While a select few folks get lucky—scoring major book deals with little or no writing technique or background—others must toil for years before finding success.

We writers take classes, go to workshops, shell out money for writing conferences, sit alone at our computers for hours, and make countless sacrifices all in the name of achieving The Dream. We wonder: How much longer can we keep going? How much more can we give before we burn out? When—if ever—will we get a payout?

At the end of the day, one virtue may be the most responsible for the long-term success of life as a creative writer: patience. The publishing industry is notoriously slow. Gradually, the industry seems to be speeding up as technology improves. But right now there’s no overnight, surefire way to build a career as a writer at a traditional publishing house. Some writers will self-publish or go to online-only publications to speed up the process a bit, but in the world of big, national publishing markets, slow and steady wins the race.

At Writer’s Relief we make it our goal to help you increase your acceptance rate and build your publishing credentials as efficiently as possible, yet we think there’s a lot to be said for a writer who is prepared to go the distance.

Here are a few reasons that patience is a top virtue of creative writers. If publishing with a major traditional publisher or even a small press is your goal, you’ll need patience:

When you’re crafting your creative writing. First, you’ll need patience to learn the techniques of good writing. And you’ll need patience when it’s time to decide whether or not your work is “done.” Many professional writers will shelve a project for weeks, months, or years before seeking publication, so that when they return to the project down the line, they’ll be able to see it with new eyes.

When you’re putting your submissions together. Patience is necessary to get through all the tedious hours of researching the best agents and editors for your writing and for preparing submissions. Lack of patience leads to shoddy submissions—and that, as everyone knows, leads to rejection letters. If you’re frustrated by (or just need help with) your writing submissions, Writer’s Relief can help.

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When you’re waiting for agents’ responses. Almost anyone who’s serious about submissions has a story to tell about receiving a rejection letter years after a given work was sent. Literary agents can get hundreds of submissions each week, and it takes time to read through all those letters.

When you’re waiting for an editor’s response. If you’re submitting a book, by now you’ve waited years to write your manuscript, months (or years) to get an agent, and now you’re supposed to wait again while your publishing house deliberates. Then, if your book is selected for publication, it can take months to draw up and agree upon a contract, then weeks for the accounting department to write your check (which goes to your agent, who must process it before you see it). It’s a long, slow slogging toward publication (and payment). Better sit tight.

While you’re waiting to be published. Small literary magazines and journals—as well as big publishing houses—often have a schedule for publishing poetry, stories, essays, and books. Once you’ve signed your contract, your project will be in “take a number” mode. Some publishers stipulate that they have up to two years to publish a project from the date a contract is signed.

Patient writers are successful writers. Patience isn’t necessarily passive—that is, it’s not just about sitting on your butt and waiting for something good to happen. Patience can be a very active, demanding task—one that many writers must master.

Remember, you don’t need to hit The New York Times list tomorrow (and you probably won’t). Enjoy the journey of being a writer. You’ve earned the right to enjoy it by all your hard work and perseverance. With the right amount of patience, focus, and talent, success is within your grasp.

Writer Questions

What do YOU think is a top virtue for writers? Patience? Or something else?

10 Responses to Writers: How A Little Patience Goes A Long Way Toward Success

  1. I think patience is important for everything, nothing is done easily as quickly as one would like to have it. Also luck has to knock the door. Anyway, on whatever reason Writers Relief is believing; and if they open their door and have interest on individual’s effort and consider the hard work behind writing – will end up with positive outcome.

  2. Very helpful and this article gives the hope to continue. I have gotten plenty of rejections, sometimes they can be more helpful than discouraging. I have finished a Narrative Nonfiction Memoir this summer, and I am beginning to send out queries. I received a “No” from a literary agency in California. She simply said, ‘We don’t do Narratives, but went on to give me a tip to look into the ‘Agency Query’ website.

  3. I think tenacity is needed. The ability to keep plugging away when hope’s at its lowest ebb. And lots of self-belief.

  4. To me, the secret is NOT waiting. As long as you keep writing, the work you’ve sent out is… out. So keep a project going, a new one, or one you’ve abandoned long ago, get ideas from ads, overheard conversations, anything! And when these don’t inspire you, write your gripes, attribute them to an imaginary character, and there you are, busy at your project, letting fate deal with the mail, your mind occupied with what YOU CAN control!

  5. I agree with Charlie. Patience is important, but if you lose steam, patience can turn into complacence. You have to always keep your goal in mind and work hard. The submissions and the waiting are both parts of that work.

  6. I think confidence is another “top virtue” for writers.

    Yes, you have to be patient. But while you are waiting, you can’t lose faith that your work is good and worth publishing! Even after you get a few (or a hundred) rejections. Sometimes it’s just a numbers game. Keep going, and stay confident!

  7. It’s really hard to be patient, especially when there’s all these self-publishing companies offering “instant gratification.”

    I’ve still got a long way to go…but a writer doesn’t have to be “patient” as long as they are just enjoying the ride.

  8. I am woefully ignorant of all of this , any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Rest Gently Please.

  9. Dear Writers Relief Staff,

    Really! Patience does work. it’s a virtue. We want to get published overnight. It may not be possible. The reasons mentioned above speak for themselves.

    Thanks for educating us,


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