Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How To Handle The Wait

Several people are reading this and busting a gut right now.
"The most impatient person on the planet is about to give advice on waiting?
Now, this I gotta read."

Mock me if you will. They say write what you know.

One of the most difficult aspects of the writing life is waiting for news.
Writing the story is actually the easy part. Because you see, until you've sent it out, you're in the safety zone. But once you put together that proposal and press send, (the mailbox picture above is old school I know, but I love Garfield), you have entered that mystical place that lies somewhere in the great beyond, a little to the left of hell.
The Waiting Room.

What is Agent X going to say? What will Publisher Q think?
What if the email got lost?
What if they like it? What if they hate it?

If I could get a dollar for the number of sleepless nights I've had worrying about the outcome of a single email, I could do some pretty sweet damage at Ann Taylor. I might even get a new Coach purse out of the deal.
You would think, after the first few years of driving myself to the brink of insanity, that I'd get a clue.
Who me? Ha. Hence the reaction to this post from those who know me well.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

Checking your email every five minutes does not make it happen.

Sending extremely strong subliminal messages through your computer screen to Editor B or Agent X will not make them respond any faster. Those little dolls you prick with needles don't work either.

The sad truth of the matter is, there is absolutely NOTHING you can do to make the wheels of publishing turn any faster. Sorry.
I hate it as much as you do. Maybe even more.
But, you say, they're getting the stuff by email! It's not like I shipped my manuscript to them via Tall Ship. It's right there!!
Yes it is. And so are a few hundred other peoples manuscripts and proposals. Talk to my agent. I'm sure she'd love to tell you how many emails come through her Inbox in one day. But she doesn't have time because she's too busy sorting through them all and taking care of the important people. Like me.
Okay, kidding. But seriously, once you get a handle on what we're really dealing with here, does it get any easier to put things in perspective?
Not for me. I still hate having to wait, but that's just my nature. And since I know the last thing I want to do is get a reputation for being that kind of author - you know the one who throws a hissy fit when she doesn't get an immediate response from her agent or editor, who constantly calls and emails and wants everything done, like yesterday and oh my gosh could you please just work a little harder because I think we're missing some big opportunities here aND IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!!
Yeah, no.
It's not.

So here we go. Accept your fate and move along in the interminably long line with the rest of us. Because wherever you are on this journey, published or not, you will always have to wait for something. Here are some things I do when I just can't stand it a minute longer.

1. Scream.
2. Cry
3. Call my best friend and scream and cry some more

Oh, wait. Wrong list.

1. Write. You might think this is obvious, but if you're working away on a new project, you're less likely to dwell on the one you're waiting to hear about. And if you get good news, then you're already ahead of the game. You can show people you're not going to be a one book wonder.

2. Get out of the house. Go for a walk, a run, go to the gym. Do whatever you do that makes you happy and takes your mind off the waiting. I try to walk every day, and even though I will often find my mind drifting back toward the current of frustration, I try to think about other things. Like why the sky is blue and whether I can convince my hubby to take me out to dinner. Again.

3. Do laundry. Yeah, this is a sucky one. But it's a necessary evil and you'd be amazed at how quickly the time flies when you're not having fun. If you have a sink full of dishes, you might want to think about tackling them too.

4. Go to the grocery store. Even if you end up just buying toothpaste, it's better than sitting around twiddling your thumbs. And food is good. You need to eat. Of course this flies in the face of my addendum on #2, but I never said my list was foolproof.

5. Facebook. Hollar! Yes, I have an addiction. But I seriously love Facebook. I spend way too much time on it. I also spend a lot of time reading blogs, and trying to write my own. But to me, it's fun. Cathartic. And nobody can say I'm not writing. So there.

6. Watch a movie. This is becoming harder to do these days, because there just aren't a lot of good movies out there. But I always hear of a few, yes, on Facebook, look them up and give them a try. It's a great way to relax and forget about what you're trying to forget about.

Those are just a few of my ideas. I'm sure you probably have more.
So let's hear it.

What do you do when you just can't take the waiting anymore?


Laura Josephsen said...

Love this post. Especially the part about how we're always going to be waiting for something.

I have a lot of things to do while waiting--keep writing on current projects, for one. I have my own novels. Plus, thanks to the fact that my co-author and I are writing a 12 book series, I have plenty to write for the foreseeable future. ;) Fortunately for me, I'm perhaps a bit strange in that I do a lot better if I'm writing two books at the same time. If I'm just writing one book, it often drags on. If I have two stories, though, it keeps me motivated and I write so much more. I think because when I start to go crazy writing one story, I just swap over to the other one. At this moment, I'm halfway through a novel I've been writing since last March, and my co-author and I are writing our fourth book. (Plus I have a finished novella that's finished, but desperately needs rewriting. I put that one on the back burner to stew for a while, though.)

As for other, non-writing ways to keep occupied, I homeschool, and there's all that housework you mentioned...

I think this is a great outlook on The Wait. Writing is an art, but publishing is a that tends to take a while. Thanks for sharing!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I paint and often throw myself into another creative project.

Great suggestions. I'm actually becoming quite a talented waiter. ;)

Thanks so much for what you wrote on my blog the other day. It went deep.

~ Wendy

Angela C. said...

I love this and it's actually quite applicable to other things in life that require waiting. Waiting can be hard. I am impatient. In fact I think most people are, especially when they are waiting for something they really care about. I love your list of things to do while waiting! Very helpful!

Katie Ganshert said...

Writing's huge for me. Get lost in a new project. That helps.


The waiting NEVER ends. Truly.

Catherine West said...

Laura, I don't usually write two books at the same time, but I am at the moment. We'll see how it goes. :0) Of course all this talk of waiting has me more impatient than ever to see my cover!! ARGH. So much for dishing out advice and not taking it!!

Wendy - thanks. I always love reading what you have to say. xo

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Lol, this was fun! I love your voice!

When can we announce we are crit partners? lol.

okay, so here's what I do. I work on all kinds of stuff and have all kinds of stuff to do. But I do stew. LOTS. and then I go for a ride on the bike and all's well.

Great post, Cath!

Richard Mabry said...

From the most impatient person on the planet to the second-most impatient person: I hear ya! What do I do? I read. I write. I take antacids. I watch re-run comedy sitcoms on TV. And I wish I were in Bermuda. (Strike that last one. Why would I want to leave Texas).

Seriously, so glad your waiting is over. But here's a hint. It really isn't. You'll wait for edits, wait for cover art, wait for Amazon figures, wait... Well, you get the picture.

Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on moving up the ladder.

Myne Whitman said...

At some points in this post, I wanted to say, rub it in! LOL...

Seriously, I try not to wait by jumping into the next project, or blogging frenetically. That helps.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I thought the waiting would get eaiser after my contract. Nope! I'm waiting to hear back on something right now, and it is painful. I just have to remember to keep praying and to keep writing.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

What always saves me is the fact that I have *plenty* to do, and if I just start doing it then I can forget about the waiting for a while. And yes, I can testify even as I start on my third contracted book that the waiting NEVER ends. Right now, I'm waiting to hear back from a few advance readers of novel #1, and this is weirdly suspenseful. They are in a way my first "real" readers--that is, readers who are reading the almost final draft instead of friends or crit partners reading earlier drafts. In addition, they're writers I respect, so a part of me is always wondering "Will they like it or not?" Aaaaaarrrrrggghhh. And then there's the fact that I turned in my second book a few weeks ago and won't hear back for two to four months. Time for movies and workouts!

Catherine West said...

Richard, you make me laugh. Can I have some of those antacids, please? I know, I'm waiting already, for edits, my cover...and then I'll be waiting more when we submit my next manuscript!
Julie, you're right. It truly doesn't end!!
Rosslyn, I'm right where you are! Several people now have the pdf of Yesterday's Tomorrow, and I have to admit, waiting for the feedback is nerve wracking! So far so good, but I'm not sure what I'll do when it's available wide, and on Amazon. Probably be throwing up every five minutes! Thankfully, I am in the middle of writing a new story that I am totally nuts about, so that's definitely keeping me busy!

Carol said...

Whatever I'm waiting for never seems to come any faster just because I want it to. Time slows down, so I try to focus on something else. Keeping busy helps the time pass, so I often tackle major projects... planning out next season's garden design; reorganizing closets or whole rooms. You get the idea. Things I've been procrastinating about. :)