Showing posts with label Waiting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Waiting. Show all posts

Friday, March 30, 2018

When You Wish Progress was a Cheetah, Not a Snail

Timing is everything. Or so they say. The problem with timing is that it’s often out of our control and isn't usually concerned with our opinion on how quickly it should move. There are few times this is better illustrated than when you’re working toward a dream. Dreams are rarely instantaneous, just-add-water-and-viola sort of things. And if that dream involves the publishing world, buckle up and enjoy the ride. For most of us, it will be proceeding at a snail’s pace. I hope you brought some snacks. 



But the idea of timing, while frustrating at times, has also become a source of comfort for me when I feel stuck in the middle, between where I am and where I hope to be.

As a Christian, my personal belief is that timing is all about God knowing what’s best for future me better than I do. But whether you believe things happen as a result of divine orchestration, or fate, or serendipity, or pure chance, I would bet you’ve uttered the phrase “perfect timing” at least once in your life. I've been thinking about this a lot lately—how perfect timing doesn't usually feel perfect in the moment. More like everyone else is speeding past you while you're standing still and screaming at them to WAIT UP like an irate toddler. 




That's the other problem with timing: It usually takes being on the other side of something to appreciate the path you took to get there. When it feels like you've forever been in a season of waiting—just on the cusp of seeing dreams come to fruition—it's hard to stop and think of the good things that have happened in the wait. To be honest, I'd often rather whine about how I'm feeling than have someone remind me to take a different perspective (and if that's you too, and you already want to strangle me, I feel you, but just walk with me for a minute...)

If my agent had signed me for the first book I submitted to her (almost 5 years ago), I would have never entered Pitch Wars. I would have never formed the close-knit friendships that have sustained me through the ups and downs of the writing process. I would never have had the opportunity to mentor other writers and their beautiful stories. Not only that, but I was a fairly new author, it was my first children’s book, and I was still ignorant (and in many ways just naive) about so much of what it takes to write and publish great stories. I’d never experienced the self-imposed pressure and expectations that come with writing book #2 (or #3, or #4). I hadn’t yet questioned my dream, or wondered if it was all worth it. If I’d gotten everything I’d hoped and dreamed of in that moment five years ago, quite frankly, it probably would have wrecked me. 

In the moment, it felt like failure. Now, I look back with gratitude for how things have ultimately progressed. 

This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I have plenty of days where I'd rather just wallow—in disappointment, in sadness, in jealousy. Days when my inner critic tells me I'm a big fat failure. On those days, I need someone else to nudge me in a different, more honest direction. To remind me that I have to trust the process—I have to believe that when the time is right, it will happen. And that someday, I’ll look back and say, “Thank goodness it worked out this way.” 

Recently, I was listening to Annie F. Downs'* podcast conversation with singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb. Ellie was telling the story behind her album, Red Sea Road. As she was getting ready to release it, her dad was diagnosed with cancer, and in the midst of his diagnosis and treatment Ellie missed a deadline, which caused the record release to be delayed. It was an additional blow in the middle of an already difficult time. But when her record finally did release, she received so many messages from people who had listened to her album in the midst of their own personal struggle and heartache who told her, “Your song came at the perfect time.”

And therein lies the comfort. So much is out of our control, but if we have faith in the process and trust the timing, we can believe that we will be better for the wait. And we can believe that the wait isn’t just about us, but about that one kid, out there in the universe, who will pick up our book one day...at just the right time. 


*Annie F. Downs is one of my favorite humans on the planet. We're not, like, IRL friends or anything, but I wish we were. Go listen to her podcast: That Sounds Fun.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to Wait Well: Get Out Your Pom-Poms

Confession: I don't always wait well. When I was a kid and I had to wait for something, I would just make a paper calendar with elaborately doodled pages and mark off the days until the SUPER EXCITING THING arrived. But give me a wait without a specified end date, and waiting well quickly turns into waiting cranky. I don't think anyone has ever died from waiting, but dang it if it doesn't feel like a real possibility some days.

Ask a writer what it's like to write a book and you'll get all sorts of answers. It's fun...it's challenging...it's fulfilling...it's exciting. And it's all those things. It's an amazing experience in which we sit at our computers and populate the blank page with words, bringing to life the vibrant world inside our heads as our characters whisper their stories in our ears.

...

Yeah, mostly it's this:


But honestly, I think the hardest part of writing comes once the book is finished, because if there's one thing all writers can agree on, it's that pursuing a career in the book world involves a whole lot of w-a-i-t-i-n-g. In fact, if I were to make a pie chart to illustrate life after writing a book, it would look something like this:


(If my agent is reading this, I promise that "write next book" slice is a lot bigger than it looks.) 😉

And the waiting comes with every stage of the journey. First you wait for agents to reply to your queries, then you wait for them to read your manuscript. Then you countdown the hours until THE CALL, and the moment you can officially announce I HAVE AN AGENT! And once you've waited for your agent to finish reading your revisions, guess what?

YOU WAIT SOME MORE!

Because once you're on sub, then you're waiting on replies from editors and eventually, if you're lucky enough to get a publishing deal, there's more announcements to wait for and more edits to complete, the countdown to publication day, and by then, you've hopefully finished another book and get to start the entire process all over again.


So, how does one survive? How do we wait well and not end up a hot mess, clutching our manuscripts and begging PLEASE JUST LIKE THESE WORDS I WROTE while consuming an entire pint of triple chocolate cookie dough ice cream? "Write the next book" is the suggestion I hear most often (for good reason). And of course, there's always the distraction of that never ending pile of books waiting to be read. But I've found that one of the best (and most fun) survival techniques is cheering on my fellow authors.


A great way to stop focusing on your own wait is to support someone else in theirs. And let's face it. It's super easy to fall into the comparison trap in this business. No matter where we're at in our own journey, there will always be someone who reaches the next stage ahead of us. What better way to beat down the green-eyed monster of jealousy than by celebrating others' success? (Something I need to remember not just in writing, but in life.)

I'm fortunate enough to have a great group of writing friends, both locally and online (looking at you, Pitch Wars 2015 crew) and they've been incredible examples of what it means to wait well and root for one another. My time in the waiting trenches would be ten times harder if not for their camaraderie. The writing world is such an incredible community precisely because of the support we lend each other, so...

Obsessively checking your email? Send an encouraging note to a friend who's in the midst of a first draft. Are the aisles of Barnes and Noble silently mocking you with their rows of bestsellers? Offer to CP or beta read for a fellow writer who desperately wants to be on those shelves, too. Procrastinating on social media? Retweet that deal announcement, blog post, or book trailer. 

While you're waiting for your own time of celebration to arrive, LET THAT CONFETTI FLY.


And, hey, a little retail therapy never hurts, right?


Friday, August 8, 2014

The Waiting Game is Afoot


I've never been all that good at waiting. When I was a kid, I'd make countdown calendars, painstakingly hand drawing every square and number, making fancy fonts for the month at the top. I'd start about September 1st and draw a big red X every night before bed until I made it through not just one, but TWO WHOLE MONTHS, and reached that glorious square marked MY BIRTHDAY!!!! Yes, I'm that annoying person who starts buying Christmas gifts in October. And my husband rarely gets his birthday or father's day gifts on the actual celebratory date in question because he knows it takes a minuscule amount of coaxing to convince me to hand them over early. (When it comes to Christmas I hold firm, but the rest of the year--once the postman delivers it, it's pretty much over).

But what I really hate is being forced to wait for some ambiguous point in the future which may or may not bring good tidings. Unfortunately, this is pretty much 45% of a writer's job description, right under the ability to survive on scant amounts of sleep and sanity. I've found that as a writer, waiting is one hundred thousand three million seven hundred and ninety-eight (to borrow a number from my six-year-old) times harder. At least I know that if I can just make it through the next 87 days (thank you, Siri), my patience will be rewarded with birthday cake--or in my case pie--mostly because I'll make it myself. It's so nice to be in control of things.

As a writer...no such luck.

You send your manuscript, finally complete after months and months of grueling labor, to a magazine/publisher/agent...and then you wait. But this time, there are no guarantees. Sure, you could be waiting for that hallelujah-angel-chorus moment of acceptance. But you could also end up with that heartbreaking, pass-the-tissues-and-the-Ben-&-Jerry's-please rejection. And since there's no saying when that reply will come, you can't even make a count-down calendar to help you cope. It's emotional Russian roulette. And if you're anything like me, the wait goes something like this:

I'm not going to get my hopes up.
Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please...
They hate it. I'm doomed. It's never going to happen.
Maybe?


So, what to do? How do we make the waiting game not suck so much? In the wise words of Sherlock:


Really. In all honesty I'm just commiserating out loud here. Of course there are ways to try and distract yourself. A new writing project, a relaxing hobby, catching up on your Goodreads "To Read" list. Binge watching anything involving Benedict Cumberbatch that's available on Netflix. Now that I think about it, turning off the alert sound for new emails might not be a bad idea (nothing like a rush of adrenaline wasted on yet another 40% off sale at rue21). But, in the end, I suppose there's nothing to be done but...

Wait.

What about you? Patient, or impatient? What do you do to pass the time when you're forced to wait?