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The Waiting Game

For writers, there are endless cliches that sometimes don’t ring true. Crumpling pages into tiny little balls and launching them into a bin in anguish. Shouting at an overly vintage typewriter. Staring off into space creating characters whilst hanging around at ever-classy dinner parties and disappointing your significant other. I don’t know many writers who willingly hang out at dinner parties (unless there’s free wine), and I sincerely hope people stop using typewriters.  But one of those cliches is appearing in my life at the moment, and it’s the one called ‘The Ever-waiting Writer’.

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Normally, I’m very good. I apply to everything I can think of, and then promptly forget about it and get on with my (terribly exciting and not at all boring) life. And then if you do get a response, well, it’s a wonderful surprise! Up until the very last moment of opening that letter and finding that you ‘just aren’t a good fit’. Or sometimes you are a perfect fit, and it’s a really good day. Sometimes you win something, and celebrate with a real breakfast, with real fizzy wine. Instead of eating dry cereal that you found in the pockets of your dressing gown. Again.

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For some reason, the waiting game this time is destroying me. Perhaps it’s that I think it would be a perfect match, or perhaps I’m actually really proud of the new novel I’ve finished. Maybe I’m eager to get on with this writing malarky and get going so I can stop serving coffee and spend all day drinking it and writing.

Or maybe it’s because every time I see a family member they ask if I’ve heard anything back yet. And the postman has started avoiding my gaze.

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So, how does a writer approach the waiting game? We have multiple articles out there on how to deal with rejection, applications, success and criticism. But no-one seems to have asked the poor schmuck stuck in limbo how they carry on not knowing. Well, dear readers, that poor schmuck is me. And I’m going to tell you how to deal with being a waiting writer.

  • Procrastinate. You know this one, you do it when you’re ‘working on your novel’ or ‘brainstorming’ or ‘writing’. Go clean the oven, do your laundry, rearrange your cupboards and rescue that old guitar that you could never play a chord on. If you can’t get mail, you can at least be useful.
  • Don’t tell people ANYTHING. You don’t know if you suck. Yet. If you’re going to be successful, let it be a wonderful surprise. You do not want the milkman asking if you’ve heard anything back yet. You become that person. The Havisham of the writing world. I know it sounds super important at those pretend dinner parties to say ‘oh, I’m just waiting to hear back from the agent’, but if you wrote a book, that’s the thing to be proud of, not the ability to post it somewhere.
  • Accept loss forever. That one’s a quote from Jack Kerouac. What I mean is, my personal way of dealing with not knowing is to convince myself that it’ll only be bad news anyway, so who cares really? (This is obviously a terrible way to live your life, and can only be applied in small doses, otherwise you become a dickhead who no-one wants to hang around with.) Luckily I’m a painfully hopeful person by nature, so if it does turn out to be good news, it’s really twice as good.
  • Stop hanging out at home. Or don’t be around when the post comes. There’s nothing more upsetting than searching for a reply from a publisher or agent, and just finding more bills you haven’t paid.
  • Start your next project! Okay, so you’re done. Writers write. Whilst someone else is judging it, you should be onto the next thing. Who knows, if you make it big, they’re probably going to want your next book too, right? And if not, well, maybe this one will be better.

That’s a short but effective guide to How To Wait To Hear If You Have Talent. It is by no means comprehensive, but it does work. When you’re waiting, write. When you’re depressed, happy, busy, lazy, bored, irritated and everything else that comes with this ridiculous job, you do what you need to do. And that is write. So get the hell on with it and stop whinging about it. This is what you’re here to do. So go do it!

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3 thoughts on “The Waiting Game”

  1. Although I’ve never had to experience waiting to hear back from an agent I’ve suffered through the waiting to hear back about interviews. I never used to tell anyone about them until after I’d had the big yes or no. With my current job I never expected to get and applied out of whimsical impulse. It came as something of a shock when they offered it to me. Which was a pleasant surprise. But I always set my expectations low, thankfully life has given me quite a few instances of pleasant surprise.

    And you’re wrong about vintage type-writers. They are work of a strange, yet beautifully mad mechanical genius, and on top of that they sound amazing. Computers are a tad easier and more convenient though. I’ll concede to that.

    1. Interview replies are exactly the same, you’re right!
      I shall not concede on the typewriter however. I loved them, until I lived with someone who was typing an extended piece of writing on one. That sound ceases to be amazing after the first hour.

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