Deferred gratification is defined as the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants.

If there ever were a term to describe the life of a writer, deferred gratification has it covered. An author who hopes to maintain any kind of grasp on sanity must learn to wait and wait some more. Suppose you’re not that type of person. When you want something, you must have it NOW!

Not to worry; you’ll have plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of waiting. Authors have endless opportunities to perfect our deferred gratification skills. First we wrack our brains for a compelling story idea. We can spend weeks tossing characters and plots in our minds like salad ingredients hoping for a palatable combination. Even so, all that mental energy may come to nothing if our writing group, agent, or editor gives our recipe the thumbs down. On the plus side, we’ve been treated to an important life lesson about our old friend, DG.

On the other hand let’s say you’ve written a magnificent story your writing group and agent love. Hey, it happens! Then comes the painful wait while your manuscript makes the rounds of likely editors. You open emails from your agent with trembling fingers and sink lower with each rejection. If every editor on the short list turns down your story you’ve wasted months—or much longer--thinking, writing, revising. Talk about all the deferral with none of the gratification!

Hold on. Editor Terrific loves your tale of YA romance and intrigue and snaps it up. Your wait is over. Or is it? After the initial love fest you may not hear another word from Editor T for eons. Ditto the revision letter, copyedits, galley pages, arcs, etc., etc. Eventually you and your novel will progress through all those necessary and marvelous steps. But eventually can be a long, long time. Did I mention long?

You’ve made it! Your final edits, dedication, and acknowledgements are in the mail. The arcs are printed and ready to go out to reviewers. Life couldn’t be better. Except for one small glitch. Your novel won’t hit bookstores for six more months. Which means, of course, more waiting.

If after all that deferred gratification experience waiting still drives you crazy, all is not lost. Some of the most talented authors in history were certifiably insane. You’ll be in excellent company.


  1. True DAT!
    It'd definitely a life of deferred grafitication.

    Which means we're either cray or obsessed. :) Or a little bit of both.

  2. Great explanation of the waiting process authors have to go through. It sounds excruciating!

  3. Oh too true, Jan. Too true. I'm a very impatient person so this makes it a very hard career for me. But what we go through for what we love.

  4. Thanks! I think crazy and obsessed covers it nicely.

    I'm impatient, too, Steph. If I could, I'd choose instant gratification over deferred any day.

  5. Waiting is something people outside the industry (like proud parents, spouses, kids, and grandkids) don't get. WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG? ARE WE THERE YET? You explained it nicely.


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