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?