Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting + Writing = same/same

I have decided that I will no longer refer to myself as a writer. I am now a waiter. Not in the sense of delivering dishes to your table, hot and without finger marks in the gravy. Rather in the sense of waiting by the mailbox. Or the inbox, as is mostly the case.

I know that waiting time is writing time. All good writers send off submissions – manuscripts, proposals, pitches, library membership application forms – and then promptly forget about them, throwing themselves immediately into their next project.

I try. I really do.

But I’m an impatient kind of a girl. I can’t help checking my inbox daily – okay, several thousand times a day. I can’t help wondering – aloud and ad nauseum. And I find it really, really hard to concentrate on other things. Like… well, anything really.

It’s bad enough when you’re waiting for one thing. When your knickers are in a knot over several things at once – as mine are at present – it makes it really hard to walk. Not with any elegance, anyway.

I’m lucky. I have good friends who are excellent writers and they talk me down from the ceiling on a regular basis. Be patient, they advise. Keep busy, they suggest. Don’t call, they insist.

So I don’t. Instead, I spend my time devising the writer’s rules for waiting.

  1. That all-important email is not stuck in cyberspace. So it does not matter how many times you click ‘get mail’. Desist. You do not need RSI at this point in your career.
  2. Everything will happen at once. So be ready.

That’s it. Waiting is very debilitating. See how it’s draining my inspiration. When you can’t even write a 10-point list, you know you’re in trouble.

I’m not alone, I know. Everyone is waiting for something. Godot, for example. But waiting, like writing, is a lonely business, full of self-doubt and insecurity.

On the other hand, it’s a whole lot better than rejection.

But that’s a subject for another day. Probably the day my waiting ends.

Which is, apparently, never. Sigh.

{image: Daphne Brissonet}


  1. Clearly I need to email you.
    Or phone you.
    Or maybe both.
    How's tomorrow?
    You'll probably be busy working on developing all the articles after your pitches that will be accepted and flooding your in tray in the morning.
    if not
    call me.

  2. No news is good news my mother always said. But I don't agree! I don't have this problem as I hardly ever send anything off! Maybe they have got yours and are re-reading and reading again, engrossed.

    I am actually waiting on the results of a short story competition and I know they won't notify me unless I am one of the top three. It's been a while. The story will be printed in a summer issue. I know magazines work at least three months ahead. It is not looking good. Still, doesn't stop me hoping.

    My novel is stalling on a plot point.

  3. Time between sending the query letter for my second book to an agent and getting a response... 7 months.
    Time to then have her read the whole thing and pitch to a publisher... 3 months
    Time to hear back from publisher... 3 months
    Time to get contract... yep, another 3 months
    Additional time until the damn thing was published... 9 months

    Book publishing moves at a pace that makes glciers look speedy- so waiting to hear from mags is good training for when the *real* waiting will begin. I finished my second novel last September... the contract has only just gone through now, in May. AND that's with an agent & publisher already on baord! Oh, and then you don't even get all your advance until the thing is published, which usually takes about 12 montsh after the contract goes through. No wonder so many of us starve in garrets in the meantime...

  4. What a great post! And yes, waiting is the writers game. Until it's not. Long stretches of nothing happen and then one thing happens, and while you are focusing on that one thing, BAM, six other things fall down on you. Writing.

  5. I believe in Cosmic Weather. Sometimes the cosmic winds blow what we are waiting for towards us, and other times we face an unfortunate head-wind, so don't worry, the wind will change. Go and make a cuppa.

  6. Yes! Why is it that after all the waiting, everything happens all at once and deadlines collide like particles in a superconductor? And then, after you write like a fiend for a few weeks, you find yourself waiting ... again.
    Knickers in a knot indeed.

  7. Oh dear, that sounds like absolute torture. Do these people know the pain they put you writers through, making you wait? You have to be distracted while you wait.... keep writing.... they will all arrive at once, for sure. A-M xx

  8. I don't hate anything the way I hate waiting. Not knowing is just horrible.

  9. Oh Alison, I can't possibly write the book now. You know I can't cope with that. I have a breakdown if no one comments on a blog post within 7 minutes of it being published.
    "They" (whoever that is) say that fear comes from the unknown. Unfortunately, I think the known is just as scary. No amount of knowing how long it might take makes it any easier.
    I have no advice other than give up writing and become a busker - rejection is instantaneous there. Who knows, if I can convince enough of the GOOD writers to give up, I might have a better chance :)

  10. I'm sure that was why I was pushed into the publishing industry... to TEACH me patience. Trouble is, I still don't have it! But my publisher is always very generous with her time, when I have my mad melt-down moments, gently suggesting that I be... patient! *wails, noooo*!

  11. I know how you feel. Who doesn't hate waiting? It drives me completely nuts too.

  12. Embrace the delicious feeling of anticipation that you get to experience daily. For some, it's barely there more than three times in a lifetime!!

  13. I can't handle waiting for a bus thats running on time, let alone being strung out waiting for responses that I'm not even sure I am going to get. The way I get with waiting makes me think I need to check myself into a monastery or something and take some depth breaths for like, 10 years or so....

  14. Remember this post from the first time round. Are we all still waiting?

  15. I am chuckling as I made recent reference to Godot in a post involving airports. But I digress. Totally relate to the impatience. Envious that you have actual projects that you are waiting on. So you clearly spend much time actually writing and not just climbing walls.

  16. Oh god, your list is driving me crazy!! How can you just stop at 2?? Can I at least round it up to 5 for you...
    3. spend time re-writing article to suit style for at least twelve other prospective magazines
    4. assume manuscript has been accepted at work on updating CV
    5. assume manuscript has been rejected and work on finding out home address of editor...

    oh that feels so much better now :)
    Did you ever come up with 10?

  17. It sounds a bit like listening to check there is a dial tone when you are waiting for a phone call.

    I don't wait well....

    Loved this post.

  18. @DeerBaby - would you believe we are? On the same things. Further down the track, but still...

  19. @Cate - no. But you have inspired me to start again... particularly motivated by point 5. :-)

  20. hehe!! Here I am, nodding my head in agreement. I'm terrible at pressing the ``sync'' button, just hoping a new email will come in, rather than getting out there and tapping away at the keyboard. I'm (slowly) learning to turn the email off (and social media) and just starting... even if it leads to nothing.
    Feeling your pain! xx

  21. I'm with Maxabella...anticipation all the way! Oh the dreams you can dream in the not knowing! Having said that, I check my email more than a sane number of times a day. Tragic.

  22. I let the anticipation linger. Shut down and go do theraputic ironing or something.

    Who am I kidding...


  23. But then again, waiting is hoping. It's the rejection bit, or at least the fear of it that's harder.

  24. Aren't we always waiting for something? The kids to grow up, the kettle to boil, the bank balance to increase (not necessarily in that order). Right now I am waiting for hubby to come home, missing him xx

  25. I hate waiting and unfortunately I seem to do a lot of it. For everything. But waiting for a response for something in particular or that has a big importance is definitely one of the harder things in life.
    Great post, thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  26. Great post. At first, I love waiting. It gives me something to look forward to. It gives me days and days of daydreaming material. But then when nothing comes of the waiting, rejection seems imminent and I feel like a twit. Nothing is as good in real life as in my head.

  27. Visiting from Rewind, worth the wait... My Granny used to say:

    Patience is a virtue... which none possess.

    She was a wise one, My Granny.

  28. Aaaargh the waiting. And even waiting for rejection is still so deliciously anticipatory, isn't it?

  29. Ooh, this is very timely for me. My mouse hand is getting tired from refreshing my inbox. Self-doubt creeps in and I wonder whether my inbox is empty because I have stuffed things up or simply because it's the weekend.

    I can't even blog about it and this is so very frustrating.

    I see from your comments that you are still waiting. I hope you get what you are waiting for. You deserve good things to come your way--such a talented writer!

  30. Really enjoyable post and informative comments that made me feel I'm not alone. And I've only started subbing. Lucky I've got 4 kids to pass the time...


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