Wednesday, August 21, 2013


For as long as you can remember such things with any clarity, your approach to the life about you was being judged as impatient.  Although you were aware of sometimes having to wait for things that mattered to you, your solution was to find something of matter in the interim, a word you did not know at the time, thus your own thoughts using the word meantime, in the meantime, do this as a substitute.

Be told often enough that you are impatient, that you were an impatient boy, and soon enough, you will hear suspicious sounding judgements from others about you, say friends or, worse, teachers or parents of your friends.  Some of these will actually use the word "impatient" when calling your attention to your behavior, and increasingly, comments on your report cards began to use that word, that impatient word to the point where two things happened.

You saw yourself as an individual with a more tightly wound inner clock that most of those you came in contact with, and you began looking for qualities to dislike about individuals who were pointed out to you as exemplars of patience.

Perhaps your most serious encounter with impatience was the belief that you could write novels with little revision beyond a quick starting each day by taking a Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 pencil to the typescript you'd produced the day before, then retype that, then add the day's new material to the pile.  Then perhaps a spell check, because, although you are still not the speller you'd like to be, you are at least more of a speller than you were.

There is some possibility that you were too impatient to spell words the way they ought.  You remember telling one teacher you had no patience--there was that word again--for people who knew only one way to spell a word.  Then you brought up the differences in spelling in England, only to be reminded that those differences related to the Middle Ages.

There is also a grand possibility that by writing novels so quickly for so long, you wrote yourself into a corner of not wishing to finish some projects you felt were important, leaving you with a number of years when essays and nonfiction books were the only things you could manage, looking at the novels your contemporaries were writing the way teenaged boys tend to look at other teenaged boys who have girlfriends when they have none.

You did not begrudge your friends their own novels; you begrudged you your unfinished novels because, among other things, you heard Rachel's voice, reminding you it was important to get your writing discipline down now, while you were still at the age where you were at the most acute stages of sensory awareness and intuitive power to grow.

You were also hearing that goddamn poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-78), "To His Coy Mistress," and the lines, "But at my back I always hear/Times winged chariot drawing near/And yonder before us lie deserts of vast eternity..."  The rest of the poem was about the kind of impatience you felt as a teenager, the impatience of sexual tension, which you came to recognize then as well as now as a great motivating force in real life, story life, and poetic life.  Let's get it on while we still have time, the poem seemed to be saying to you then.  Perhaps because you were impatient to find ways around the speedbump of sexual tension but because you were haunted by the notion of life being a fuse, lit at about the moment you emerged from the womb, its length indeterminate.  No problem with unlit fuses, but then, along comes puberty with a Zippo lighter.  

All about you, patient people were getting things done.  Or so you thought, until you discovered that discipline helps you break your impatience down into manageable segments.

You got that from one of the most impatient of men, the man who called himself Mark Twain.

The problem with being impatient and undisciplined is that there are times when the voices begin arguing all at once, softly at first, to the point where you think you can accommodate them all in short order.  Through the process of identification, you find yourself thriving on the old TV cop shows with ensemble casts, those such as "The Shield" and "Southland," and Richard Price's "NY22," where you see the differing situations as the arguing, scheming, conniving aspects of yourself, calling for attention and mediation, the kind only you can handle, right now.

You even tell yourself how a disciplined you can handle all these calls for attention, how a little shrewd handling can get the problem under control.

No such luck.  You have to tell them that things take time, things have their own inherent speed, their own awareness, their own sense of what a close friend calls carino.  You try to rush things at your own expense.  Better to respect the time the thing that wants to get done requires.  You can say a novel takes a year, which is a lot more respect than the month you used to give it.  You can say a short story takes a month, but the way to really put impatience on hold is to tell it that things can be done sooner, but they might lose some of the special qualities that will cause you to see their carino and to grow with what the carino has provided.

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