But, I think what Elizabeth Reinhardt is stressing here extends to a different level. We have to find a way to summon up that passion inside of us to work on something else while we "wait." It is part of the game people!
With waves of five queries going out every other week and a carefully graphed spreadsheet that I mark with a special set of red, green and purple pens (yes, it’s agonizingly color-organized) I feel like waiting is my job. I wait and mark in coordinating colors the rejections, requests for partials or fulls, and any personal comments from agents that might help me improve.
That sounds impressive, right?
Except if you’re reading this blog post, you’re most likely a writer, and you probably know that even if I monkey around editing the first three chapters to death or reformat so my entire manuscript has only one space after each period and a half-inch indent without the use of the tab button, that leaves a whole lot of time.
If I’m being generous with my schedule, I’d say checking my email and responding appropriately to all things writing-based can take, daily, anywhere from thirty seconds to a good five minutes if I take it slow.
Time should be a writer’s best friend! With all this extra time, I could be writing my next book. But it feels like the first book isn’t finished yet since I’m waiting to hear back about it.
So, instead, I challenge my high school teacher to rousing games of online Scrabble. And wait. I clean the bathroom from top to bottom. And wait. I dump out my junk drawer and, instead of throwing away any junk, I organize it all into unrealistically neat piles that will be a heaping mess in less time than it took to initially organize the whole mess. And wait. I check my email obsessively. And I wait.
My husband asks if he can use the laptop.
“I’m working.” I do not make eye contact.
“You’re looking at pictures of someone’s kid on Facebook. Is that your cousin?”
“Um, no. Remember that girl I worked with at Home Depot? It’s her sister’s niece’s grandfather’s birthday party album.”
The silence in the room is deafening.
“I think you need an intervention.”
“I’m waiting to hear back on my first book.” The tab for my email page is right behind the Facebook page, ready to all times to blink if I get an email.
“Look.” My husband gives me his best firm-but-kind voice. “You’re brilliant. Your writing is brilliant. But the time when you’re waiting for feedback on a book is like hell on earth. You’re like a robot. A neurotic robot. Please channel this energy into writing something. Please. Please. And can I see the laptop for a minute?”
Because he’s a really nice guy, I take his advice.
Scrabble beckons. The bathroom and junk drawers sing to me. But I hold firm. At first it’s a few words, but the chapter picks up and I can’t just stop. Soon I’ve got a new story plotted out. Before I know it, I’ve gone all day without cleaning or playing or checking my email obsessively. And I feel good. Really good.
“I know it’s going to be a huge deal when you get the call from an agent,” my husband says. We’re eating take-out Chinese because I was too caught up in my chapter to make dinner.
“It will be awesome,” I agree. But what I don’t tell him (because I don’t like to encourage him to gloat), is that the part that makes me happiest is the writing. I love it. Even if I don’t get the call, even if I have bad days, even if I sometimes trick myself into thinking I love cleaning junk drawers more, I love writing. And it is, without a doubt, the best way to take up time when I’m waiting for that call.