Patience is a virtue – but let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a boring one. I’ve never really bothered with it. I’m too anxious to cram as much as possible into life, especially as several years vanished down the drain when chronic pain stopped me from doing just about everything. I have catching up to do. I’m in a hurry. However, I’m beginning to realise that for a writer and musician, patience is necessary - in spadefuls.
Here’s an analogy based on one of my favourite things: trees. I was recently helping my husband with some hedge-laying and it struck me how I should aspire to be like the tree whose name I share. Hazels are not in a hurry. They wait patiently for the seasons, yet just look!
They are strong, flexible and vigorous. They produce a prolific amount of stuff that is beautiful and stuff that is useful. They re-sprout when they have been cut back. They do not give up.
Here’s another analogy I’m stealing from Aesop, and it particularly applies to novel-writing. At the start of your book it’s good to run like a hare. There’s a joy in accelerating through the pages when you are ‘in the flow’ and your pen can hardly keep up with you. But then comes the not-such-fun part, the tortoise-paced editing: plod, plod, plod. The journey seems endless, full of stumbling blocks and detours and you may well have to retrace your steps and start over again. Weeks, months, years of life are swallowed up… and you won’t know for ages and ages if your novel will ever be published. Nor even if anyone is ever going to read it. Commitment required. Faith and hope required. Tortoise-like patience very, very much required.
As for playing the harp, I may make it look effortless as my fingers skim along the strings creating gorgeous, heavenly music (here’s hoping!) - but behind the scenes are many years of tortoise-plodding. Maybe that proves I do have some patience in me after all.
Plodding is a loaded word and I’ve made it sound very negative, but actually it isn’t. Are tortoises unhappy? I would say not. I think that (unlike the hares) they are not at all prone to nervous breakdowns. I rather fancy they enjoy the slowness of the journey. And let’s not forget who won in the end.
There’s little saying which I’ll include in the interests of showing off my Italian and underlining my point. For writers, musicians and anyone else who’s interested in achievement: Chi va piano va sano e lontano. Roughly translated it is this: If you go slowly you go safely… and you go far.