First, you have to live.
Before you can hatch an plot, be struck by inspiration or pursue that yearning to share your ideas with the world, you need to spend some time being alive. You have to discover who you are, how you think, and how language and vision and imagination work. All of that takes time. At some point, you need to decide what form your insight or the story you dreamed up might take, and whether or not you are prepared to create it.
Then, you need to write.
Chances are you don’t need me to tell you that can take a while too, but just in case you were dwelling in any doubt or delusion, it’s true. Writing takes time. So do redrafting, refining and revising, not to mention revisiting the original premise, changing direction completely, realising that you’ve been writing a whole other thing entirely, giving it up, thinking it over, coming back to it later, trying it from a different angle, cutting it in half or doubling its size, turning it inside down and upside out, and writing, writing, writing, until at last you can hear it singing.
And that’s not even counting the procrastinating.
It takes time.
Finally, it’s done. But it isn’t, of course, because that’s when (if you’re smart) you get it edited, and yes, that takes time too. It may take you a while to find the right editor for your words, and then you might need to wait until you can work with that person. The editing itself needs time and possibly more of it than you first expect.
You might think you are ready to go, but your editor could suggest there is structural work to be done. Sometimes more than one round of editing is required. Whole chapters may be missing or unnecessary. Ideas might need more explanation, examples or illustrations.
It takes time to sort all of that out and it has to happen before any further editing can occur. And you’re the author, don’t forget. That means you need to check through and approve or refuse every suggestion and correction your editor makes. This can take a while and could even lead to more revisions requiring more editing which also needs approval from you.
It all takes time.
At last, you have your final draft and you’re ready to publish. Guess what? Time. You’ll be needing more of it. Whether you opt for print publication, create an ebook or have a deadline to meet, your document has to be formatted. Other experts may need to contribute their skills. There’s cover art and typesetting to be arranged, and don’t forget that proofreading is a separate step in the process.
Sure, each of these stages can be rushed, but why do that if you care? And if you don’t care, why do them at all?
It’s at this point you might expect me to spin you that line about how everything worthwhile takes time. That may be true in a lot of cases, but some of the most amazing and enduring things that have ever happened did so in only a few days or in a minute or in an instant. Clichés are not always correct.
There are authors out there who are disciplined and prolific. They write quickly and confidently and very productively. You can also find editors who will finish jobs with aplomb in squeakily tight timelines. Even publishing itself is becoming an ever more expedient process, but sometimes, sometimes it’s not quite as quick as you might like.
And some good things do take time.
I’ll happily tell you that I’m not the fastest editor out there, but I’m thorough and I care. Maybe more than most people, I know that time cannot be vanquished. It happens at its own pace and being in the flow of it is easier than constantly wrestling with it.
By the time your work reaches me, you are usually beyond eager to get it out there and into the hands of its readers. I understand that and I want to help. But sometimes it takes time.
How about we agree to give your words the respect they deserve? Let’s recognise that time is one factor at play, but quality matters more to me than speed and I hope it does to you as well. It may be that your journey as a writer from first word to finished product takes longer than you expect, but that’s ok.
While that time continues to flow, we can all keep on living, learning and writing some more.
What expectations or experience do you have of the time it takes to write, edit and publish? Which bits go fast for you and which ones slow? What advice would you give to others about cultivating patience when creating a book or other significant document?