I’ve come to a realization recently about writing and being a writer. Whether working as a freelancer, or publishing novels, one giant cable connects all writers. And it might be the most frustrating part of writing: there’s a lot of waiting around. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that 90% of “being a writer” is waiting. And the waiting is really, really hard.
I currently find myself in that situation. I’m waiting A LOT. No one is exempt from this rule. (Well, maybe some are, but they’re probably really famous.) Everyone has to wait. In fact, I heard an interview with an agent and her number one suggestion for an excellent author/agent relationship is to be patient. Because writing and publishing take a long time.
I wish that working as a writer was a microwave, but in reality it’s a crockpot. Slow and steady, brewing and cooking and after a long (long) time, finally ready.
I find myself waiting.
I’m waiting for payments to come through on some of the pieces I’ve sold.
I’m waiting for responses from agents on the book I’m currently querying.
I’m waiting for print copies of the magazines with my work to arrive.
I’m waiting for responses on pieces I currently have in submission. (I once waited for over a year for a response on a magazine submission. That’s a long time.)
Sounds kind of miserable, right? Well it is, but there’s something to be said about all this waiting. We live in an “instant gratification” culture where we expect things to just happen, right now. But that’s not reality. Reality is that anything worth doing takes time. Fast and quick is convenient and might feel satisfying, but I would argue that there is greater fulfillment in the slow and steady.
After all, the tortoise always wins.
Every time I read the fable, the tortoise wins.
As frustrating and hard as it may be, as writers, we have to view the waiting as a positive thing. (Otherwise we will go mad.) It’s a sneak peak into a slow industry, and it’s priming your muscles for a very long race. It a very important lesson in tenacity and fortitude: do you have what is takes to stick with it for the long run? It’s sandpaper, refining you into a more determined person and writer.
It makes me think of the “experiments” performed on children and self control. The children were put in front of a treat–it might have been marshmallows or cookies, I don’t remember–and they were given the instructions that they could eat the treat, but if they waited until the adult came back, they would get two. The testers left and watched to see what would happen.
Some of the children, of course, just ate the treat and went on their merry way, but some held out and were rewarded for their patience and self control.
That’s how I chose to look at waiting. I practice patience–as hard as it is sometimes–and trust that my self control, diligence, and grit will eventually pay off.
So what can you do while you’re waiting?
Clean your house
Or your home office. Or your sock drawer. Whatever you have left undone the entire time you were working on the book or the story or the article, get to it now and get it done. Without fail, after I finish a larger project, my writing desk is a mess and that’s the first thing I clean.
Go for a walk
Or, if you’re like me, a run. Just get out and get some fresh air and move your body. Sitting in front of a computer day after day is draining and exhausting. So get some sunshine and movement. And who knows, you just might get an idea to spark in your head.
And speaking of creative sparks…
Fill up the creative well
Read. Then read some more. Watch a favorite movie. Do things that fill up your mind with other people’s art. One thing I love doing is reading to learn how other authors approach their storytelling. What do they do really well that you can practice in your own writing? What are parts of their style you don’t like? Just keep pouring into your creative well so when the time comes to start your next project, you’re ready and refreshed.
Which brings me to…
Start a new project
Nothing like taking your mind off of a submission you have out there like starting something new. What better way to make use of all the time your have waiting then to get better at your craft? Keep writing, keep revising, and keep working. It also is a shield against a rejection; nothing eases the sting of rejection like knowing it’s not the end of your writing career.
Stop checking your inbox
I’m so guilty of this it’s pathetic. But serious, stop. It’s soul-crushing. Check once in the morning, and then put your phone down. (I’m talking to myself here, because it’s a really bad habit of mine.)
If you find yourself waiting like I am, hang in there. Remember, the tortoise always wins.