overcoming feelings of impatience in the creative process

After making good progress for a few solid weeks, I finally got the ‘fear’ with my current writing work-in-progress.

The fear for me comes in a few different forms, but this time it was the sheer overwhelm that comes when faced with the scale of crafting a whole novel. 

Novels are big projects to undertake. Word-count aside (I aim for around 75,000-80,000 words), the scale of building a coherent story with arcs for multiple, dimensional characters, crafting a consistent world and compelling plot is too much to face every time you sit down to write. 

Naturally, my instinct when faced with this type of overwhelm is to decide I just need the whole thing finished, done, complete - now. 

All or nothing is a habit I'm trying to break free from. It's especially unhelpful in the face of overwhelm or impatience, because this is the mindset which leads to quitting. If you can't finish it now, if you can't do it well enough, if it's too much to face, then you can't do it at all. 

This is a lie. There are no hard and fast rules about how long anything should take. You can hurry the creative process up to a point, but ultimately, it takes as long as it takes. Equally, there are no rules to how 'well' you have to do something - if it takes another draft than so be it. 

becoming more patient with the creative process

Impatience can set in at different points in the creative journey, but it's particularly rife at project midpoints or during the skill-building process (I'm talking from a writing point of view - but this is something that can impact creatives of any medium). I've shared a few of the tools I use to try and overcome this feeling and keep going in spite of it:

Smaller steps.

Take a break from the big picture. Once you know where you're going there's no sense in staring at the map and freaking out about the distance you still have to travel. Zoom right in to the day-to-day. The little steps you take each day form your process, your journey, and this is where the magic happens. This is where skills grow in proficiency and projects grow to completion.  

Set habits and routine-focused steps that lead in the direction of your destination, and focus on the steps themselves. Get up, do the work, don't look too far ahead, repeat. 

The process.

Everybody loves having created something. Whether you're looking at a finished novel, poem, painting, or cushion - the feeling of accomplishment and empowerment is incredibly fulfilling. 

But chasing that feeling can't be your only driver. You have to find a way to seek the joy in the process, the doing, the making of your art. Learning to love the process can become a steady tether to your art that will really help you stay the course when your impatience makes you want to quit and run. 

Look at breaking your project down into much smaller stages to give yourself more regular bursts of accomplishment. This might look like reaching the end of a draft, or even a chapter. Celebrating the little wins (like your daily word count), practising gratitude through journaling, rewarding daily habits - these can all help steer the mind away from the end result and shift the feelings of impatience from not reaching it quickly enough. 

Often the only solution is that there is no sure fix, only the comfort of experience and familiarity. With regular journaling, and calm reflection on these feelings - you'll start to build up a picture of your ability to move through these periods of impatience.

If you can deal with it once and keep going, you can deal with it again.