Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Patience is a Key Ingredient

Lately I have been feeling sort of ‘blah’. I have been making progress on my current projects, but I’m not happy at the rate, I need to go faster in order to make my deadlines, or at least that’s what I’m fearing. I am feeling sort of listless and annoyed, and any extra things I need to do, or meetings I need to attend are making me even more cranky than usual, more than I have been in a while.

I just sat down to write in my journal and try and figure it out, and then it hit me – I need to learn patience!

Patience has never been my strong suit. I get bored easily, I get annoyed when people don’t respond to important emails quickly enough, or frame their responses succinctly enough for my liking. And this is just in everyday life. I am much much worse when working on a project. I want my collaborators to revert to me right away, I want an instant response to my work when I send it. I don’t tell them that of course, instead I seethe away silently, unable to progress on my next bit of work because I keep hitting the refresh button on my browser to check if they have replied.

Sure there are benefits to being impatient sometimes. I can harness it to get quick progress on important tasks or those that risk getting buried by other more urgent things. I often find if I don’t write a blog post right away once I have an idea, I often won’t get back to it again, which means that I usually write it as soon as I can.

The biggest drawback however, is that creative projects, especially longer-term ones, or those in collaboration with others, require patience in bucket-loads. People will take longer than they say in reverting with comments or their contributions. Sometimes the work will simply stall, and you may find yourself spinning your wheels till you figure out how to get out and move forward. Sometimes you seem to be making no progress whatsoever, only to see two weeks or months down the line how far you have come. All of this requires patience. It requires having faith that as long as you keep putting in the hours, keeping adding paragraphs and brushstrokes and lines of code, you will start to see the big picture emerging, the thing coming together.

Many times we feel we aren’t capable of taking on larger, more ambitious projects – because we lack the talent or the ability we think. That has happened to me very often. Only when I have been pushed to work on projects far beyond my capacity did I realise that what I lacked wasn’t ability but patience. Patience to accept that maybe after hours of working on something, it still doesn’t look at all like it will ever get finished, but after enough days of that, it will start to take shape. Patience to accept that while I am not finished yet, I will one day soon.
Where does this impatience, this straining at the leash come from? I suspect its a lot to do with wanting acknowledgement, and kudos. Like my mom says, almost everything bad comes from our ego. Well our ego wants to be stroked at the end of a hard day of work, but if the end of your project isn’t in sight, you aren’t going to get that ego stroking just yet. What’s worse, you can’t even convincingly report to someone that you are 50% done, or 75%, when it feels like you are just going in circles and not moving forward at all. While this is a common aspect of the creative process, our egos are impatient for the moment we can announce on Twitter – I did it! I completed my book / painting / app!

So maybe the reason for my recent grumpiness is that my poor ego hasn’t had anything to crow about in a while, because I’m knee deep in the middle of my current projects, and my recently completed is still a few months away from publication. Which made me realize that the next skill I will focus on acquiring is patience, given its key role in ensuring that I have the emotional ability to take on larger and more complex projects, projects where things may not go according to plan, and I may find myself spinning my wheels quite a bit, but the end result will be worth it.
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