No. 111 | By Christine Carron
This is the fifth and final post in the Goodjelly Moves series. Each of the five Moves represents a core quality or energy needed to ace the writing adventure. The Moves framework conveys the reality that productivity is, like the seasons, cyclical—requiring both activity and rest—and each Move is associated with one of the seasons: Possibility/Spring; Power/Summer; Process/Late Summer; Grace/Autumn; Patience/Winter.
For the full overview of the framework see: Possibility | Get Your Writing Moving, Part 1.
The final Goodjelly Move is Patience. It’s the Move that is the deepest expression of the receptive side of the creative productivity cycle. As such, it’s also the Move that’s the antithesis to our Do, Do, Do culture of constant action and activity. Patience is about waiting. Inaction. Doing (gulp) nothing. That means, yes, Patience is the Move that is about not moving.
The truth is that sometimes we—and our creativity—need rest and renewal. But it’s more than that. Sometimes Patience energy is simply the smart, strategic move to make.
Knowing that Patience was this week’s post topic, I was delighted when I happened upon the following passage in Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom—a fantasy novel about a group of thieves led by criminal mastermind Kaz Brekker, whose thoughts we get in these lines:
Waiting was the part of the criminal life so many people got wrong. They wanted to act instead of hold fast and gather information. They wanted to know instantly without having to learn. Sometimes the trick to getting the best of a situation was just to wait. If you didn't like the weather, you didn't rush into the storm—you waited until it changed. (p. 182)
Replace “criminal life” with “writing adventure,” and you’ve got a solid description of the strategic value of having Patience as a tool in your writerly toolkit. Let’s dive in. . . .
Patience is wintertime. Leafless trees. Snow blanketing the ground. Progress grinds to a halt. We feel like we are floating in some strange, liminal space—stuck between the harvest of Grace and the rising of Possibility. It is usually not a comfortable place. We want to do something, already.
Not allowing that time of waiting, however, is like trying to force Spring to arrive in the depths of winter. Weird weather patterns aside, Spring is not yet ready to spring when it’s Winter.
Plus, it’s an illusion that “nothing” happens in winter. Beneath the surface, deep in the soil, energy is collecting and building up the strength required to propel your creativity into a new cycle.
Don’t shortchange your creative winters, peeps. They can be powerful times—if you trust them.
Patience energy is at play all over the writing process, not just in between projects. You use it when you let a first draft settle before you dive into revisions. Or take a break during a writing conference if you tip into introvert overwhelm. Or give yourself an artist date à la Julia Cameron—i.e., replenish your creative well. (Note: The output of artist dates is hopefully new Possibility energy, but the act of taking them requires Patience energy, i.e., stepping away from the active production of your writing and giving yourself space and time for creative renewal.)
Patience is also present when you give yourself time to learn new craft skills, or when you take breaks between writing sprints, or when you let go of arbitrary due dates for literary world domination. (Though maybe it’s just me who wrestles with those arbitrary success timeline expectations?)
While Patience doesn’t have the flash or pizazz of the Power Move, it does have a subtle kind of strength all its own. Perhaps because it evens the playing field between you and Time.
When you cultivate Patience, Time can do its thing without throwing you off your game. Patience energy supports resolve, persistence, and smart waiting—those moments when the best move to make is to make no move at all.
(Until the weather changes, of course.)
As noted through this whole series, every Move has a shadow side. Patience’s is a doozy: Fear.
What if I never have another idea? What if I never get this manuscript done? What if I can't write another novel ever again? What if I've waited too long to query? What if I'm just lazy and not really committed?
In the space that Patience requires, the shadow of Fear is always lurking. Sadly, that fear is often heightened thanks to the very common advice writers receive to always be writing.
From my perspective as a process improvement consultant, this advice is a bit ridiculous. I understand its intention—to be a successful writer we have to get our writing done, i.e., to be writing. But are we writing automatons, or are we creative beings participating in a dynamic creative process? Do we really think it helps productivity when writers worry that any cessation of writing is a creative failure, and possibly a personal one, too?
Here’s my Goodjelly take on the matter: You are not a failure as a writer if your creativity wants to take a nap on occasion.
Take the nap.
When we stop making dormant periods of our creativity wrong, we often get through them faster—at the minimum we get through them with less fear.
When we have balanced Patience energy we are able to trust the timing of our writerly unfolding. We are able to rest, to relax, to wait. We realize that just as our bodies require regular renewal, so does our creativity.
We understand that the dormant side of the creative productivity cycle makes the active side possible. That means we not only take the naps, we appreciate them.
Here’s another take on this whole Patience business: In a discussion of long-haul productivity and motivation in her book Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before, clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith writes,
Something that many people learn the hard way is that [productivity] doesn't mean just continuing to drive forward until you burn out. When we are working on long-term goals . . . we have to learn to counterbalance the stress of effort with the replenishment of rest. (p. 86, emphasis added.)
Patience can be out of balance in one of two ways: deficiency or excess.
If you have a Patience deficiency you rush ahead even when waiting would be the smart move. For example, you panic-revise. (I’ve done that.) You want literary success NOW, already. (Been there.) You wonder if your creative winter will ever end. (Yup, been there, too.)
If you have a Patience excess you hesitate to act even when conditions are ripe to take action. Perhaps an agent invites you to send them your manuscript and instead of doing so, you put them off and decide you need to revise the manuscript just one more time. Perhaps someone offers to connect you with an editor, and you don’t follow-up. Perhaps you pull together everything you need to apply for a grant or a scholarship, but then let the deadline pass without hitting Submit.
As you’ve probably already noted, Patience is wrapped up in timing, and with our relationship with Time. For a lot of us writers, that relationship is fraught. Getting more adept with the Patience Move can shift that relationship into a happier place.
In the first post of this series, I promised to share how to use the Moves to get unstuck. To do so requires you to have a sense of each energy. Let’s recap: There is a natural supportive flow to the Moves. Possibility rises, and bursts into Power, that settles into Process, and gathers into Grace, that finally rests into Patience, where once again Possibility will spring forth . . .
Whenever you are feeling deficiency in one of the Moves, look to the one before it. Feeling Power deficient? Maybe you need a little more Possibility. Not able to settle into Process? Perhaps one last oomph of Power will get you there. Low on Grace? Give it a boost with smart Process. And in the same way, Grace nurtures Patience, and Patience feeds Possibility.
There is also a balancing dynamic amongst the Moves that cuts excess down to size. Knowing the balancing cycle helps when you are in excess with a Move.
A little Possibility will shake you out of excess Process, such as feeling like you are in a writing rut. Process will get you to action if you are frozen in Patience. Patience will douse an excess of Power. Power will jumpstart you when you are resting on your laurels in Grace. And adding Grace (trust) to the mix is a great tactic to cut yourself off when you are spinning in too much Possibility—i.e., it will help you pick a direction, go all in, and see what comes of it.
In the end, the Moves are the base ingredients of the alchemy of your creative productivity. On any given day you will need different ratios of each depending on where you are on your writing project(s) and on which task(s) you are focusing.
Now that you know the Moves, understand their unique qualities, and how you can use them dynamically, you have a whole new set of tools to create more momentum and flow on your writing adventure. At any given moment ask yourself what will serve you and your writing adventure best right now. A dash of Possibility? A dollop of Power? A sprinkle of Process? A pinch of Grace? Or perhaps all you need is an extra splash of Patience to give yourself time to figure it out. Whatever it is . . . . You’ve got this!
The Rest of the Moves Series Posts