Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sitting and Waiting

Are you willing to sit and wait for a while?

Are you prepared to sit and wait for more than a few hours a day, more than a few days a week, more than a few weeks a month, more than a few months a year?

Are you capable of sitting and waiting for more than a year?

If you’re not willing to sit and wait for your characters to reveal themselves to you—however long it might take—then how can you expect to write about their world?

One of my teachers told me long ago that she rarely wrote fewer than thirty drafts of a novel or short story. Thirty drafts! 

Sometimes that's just how long it takes.

So, when you finish one draft, or two, or even three, perhaps you’re only starting the process, and there’s more sitting and waiting ahead.

Writing requires patience. Not just the patience to sit and wait for words to come, but the patience to wait until a character is forthcoming and willing to open himself or herself up to you.

Your characters need to trust you, and they can sense your impatience, your doubts, your discomfort sitting and waiting. They can sense when you are afraid of their story, fearful of the truths that may emerge from their lives, reluctant to face the events they want to share with you, unwilling—or unable—to confront the challenges in their day-to-day existence.

If they sense the slightest hint of fear, uncertainty, or doubt, they will remain silent.

They may show you the surface of their lives, but they will withhold the deeper issues, hide the fissures that cause them pain, and conceal the cracks that reveal their need for love and acceptance.

If you can sit and wait, though, they may grant you a gift.

They may tell you who they truly are and how they live their lives and what they want and what they fear and what they’re willing to do for love.

They may give you the gift of a story.

Sometimes writing isn’t just about getting words on paper.

It’s about trusting and doubting, and about being afraid and being able to love, and about hoping and believing in a story that you can't yet see and in characters who you can't yet hear.

It’s about sitting.

And waiting.

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