In which I consider the virtue of patience

Patience, they say, is a virtue. If that’s true then wannabe writers are, without question, shining beacons of good morals, because waiting is one of our main activities.

I was at a day-job meeting earlier this week, where I found myself sat next to one of those people you see at meetings. You know the people – the ones you only know from the fact that they turn up at all the same meetings as you and you see their email address a lot on contacts lists. Being a fundamentally genial fellow, this person enquired after my well being, and then, demonstrating quite marvellous social skills, remembered that I Do Writing, and asked how that was going. “Oh well,” said I. “I’ve got my first novel out with a publisher waiting for a response at the moment, and I’m working on the second.”

“Oh,” he said, failing to mask the slight air of disappointment in his tone. “That’s what you said last time I saw you.”

Well, yeah. It is. And the last time I saw him, I reckon was November. Sometimes that’s just how long these things take – any writers out there feel free to share your “longest wait for a response” anecdotes in the comments! Patience, as I already mentioned, is a virtue.

Unfortunately, for this particular wannabe writer it’s not a virtue that comes naturally. I am a deeply impatient soul. For example, I restarted my ongoing (and largely good-intention based) diet on Monday, and have stuck to it for 2 whole days. I am, therefore, utterly dismayed at the fact that I am still Not Thin. It’s really getting quite frustrating now. It’s almost as if I’m going to have to stick with the diet for weeks and weeks and weeks (or more probably months and months and months).

Dieting aside, impatience has generally served me pretty well. It’s given me a healthy intolerance of situations that make me unhappy, which led me to go back to university to study creative writing and, later, led to me quitting proper work altogether to go freelance and Do Writing. Both excellent (if somewhat flakey) life decisions, which wouldn’t have been made if I’d adopted a “wait and see” attitude.

So, in conclusion, patience is a virtue, but so, on occasion, is impatience. And don’t ask wannabe writers how it’s going more than once a year. The answer will almost certainly be, “Slowly.”

Author: Alison May

Writer. Creative writing teacher. Freelance trainer in the voluntary sector. Anything to avoid getting a real job... Aiming to have one of the most eclectic blogs around, because being interested in just one thing suggests a serious breakdown in curiousity.

7 thoughts on “In which I consider the virtue of patience”

  1. When anyone asks how the writing is going, my reply is always: “Writing’s going well, publishing’s going nowhere.” This has been true for so long that most people have stopped asking. Since I’m now at 15 years of working towards publication I’m starting to think I might have too much patience, perhaps…


    1. Well, as I said, sometimes impatience is a virtue too. Have you tried self-publishing? I’m not brave enough, but know plenty of others making a go of things down that route.


  2. Hi Alison

    I am with you on this one. I have had two requests for full MS from publishers and I am sooooooooo tired of waiting! How long has your MS been with the publisher and have they given you any indication of when you might get an answer? I should know within the next two months, three at the worst, from both publishers. It seems like a lifetime at the moment, but if they both say “no thanks”, I have a feeling I might be wishing that I was still waiting! Hope you get some great news soon.



    1. This particular ms has been with this particular publisher c6 months. I knew to expect it to be around that time or longer though and it’s a publisher I’d love to be published with, so a positive response would be worth the wait. Frustrating to wait when you know a “no thanks” is the always most likely outcome!


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