Test Your Patience
Last week, my wife and I along with a plane full of other people loaded into an airplane at the Phoenix airport. When I enter a plane, one of my first motions is usually to see if the air vent is wide open. It was—but nothing was moving. The temperature was over 100 outside and while everyone got settled, the pilot announced that air conditioner unit was broken but they would cool the plane when they got into the air. Great. In the meantime, everyone was using the “safety briefing card” as a fan. Eventually we got off the ground and the plane cooled but it was a test of patience.
Our return flight this week was thirty minutes late (pretty normal if you travel much). After the plane landed and pulled up to the terminal, the jetway driver couldn’t line up with the plane. The repeated attempts until finally connecting took an extra twenty minutes of standing in the aisle and waiting. You could hear the muttering and impatient comments around me as we waited to exit the airplane. These situations were a test of my patience and also taught me about the ugly side of impatience as I listened to others complaining.
These types of impatient responses are also a part of the publishing world. Last week an agent who I’ve known many years pitched a novel project. I answered my email and raised a couple of questions about the project (unclear from the initial pitch). Less than twelve hours later, I received a second email from this agent asking if he could send the proposal or full manuscript. It was like a little kid standing there screaming, “Can I? Can I please?” I was clear about the limited opportunity yet the second pitch from this agent was pure impatience and unnecessary—even hinted at desperation and made me wonder if I should read the project in the first place—much less champion it for publication. When I receive the project, I will give it a fair hearing but the impatient response pushed it toward rejection.
In these days of instant message and email and cell phones and other technology, be aware that not everything moves at high speed. I attempt to be diligent and answer my email—but it’s not a priority for many other editors. You will hear from these editors when they have some need to interact with you about a particular project. Much of publishing involves meetings and many different internal steps to get a decision. It simply takes time—and impatience will only breed rejection rather than acceptance. Open the doors you can and continue knocking until you have enough of them open.