It is really hard to be patient. Especially now, when we’re so accustomed to getting immediate answers at the click of a keystroke. Especially when it comes to ambiguous health issues with no ready solution in sight.
But I have a different context for this observation, as I write on a rainy Monday morning. Please bear with me.
I have been working on a novel since fall 2014. Set in World War I, it’s about a widow whose estranged daughter runs off with her beau to volunteer for the French medical service, and the mother’s journey to find her and bring her home. You can read more about it here. For the past year-and-a-half, I’ve been looking for a literary agent who will help me get published. It’s a very long slog.
I’ve gotten some bites and requests for parts or all of the manuscript, only to have the agent reject it (“I didn’t fall in love”) or in one case, ghost me for the better part of a year after promising to read it. I’ve worked on the language and plot some more, completing the eleventh draft this spring. I feel confident it is my best work. But the book publishing world is highly competitive, and it is very hard for a debut author to get her toe in the door, let alone a whole foot.
It takes a ton of patience. And confidence. And a really thick hide. Earlier today, I spoke with a published author of multiple novels who was kind enough to read the manuscript for me and give me some feedback. It’s taken the better part of a year for us to connect. Worth the wait, because he was very encouraging, told me no need for any more revisions, just focus on getting it published. He had some good suggestions that confirmed my strategy going forward and also gave me a few other helpful tips. Most of all, he likened the process to starting a small business, which resonated for me, having wrestled through that experience years ago to launch my marketing consultancy. “A year-and-a-half is nothing,” he added.
It’s all about managing expectations, which is true of most challenging problems. American culture places a premium on speed, youth, and instant gratification—none of which has much value for solving a really difficult issue. Getting my novel published will take more time and research, many more queries, and a resolve to keep going even in the face of multiple rejections.
Managing an elusive disease with no known cure, like scleroderma, takes a lifetime of learning to manage symptoms, find the right medical team, build partnerships with health care professionals, practice a healthful lifestyle, get help for depression and other mental health challenges that arise in the course of such complexity, and find ways to live fully with the disease. For starters.
It takes a mother-lode of patience. For you, Dear Reader, that is what I wish on this rainy Monday morning.
Image: Nathan Dumlao