Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not built for waiting

Writers are the worst people for waiting. At least this writer is. And the cruelty of this business is that it is all about waiting. Waiting for critiques, waiting for responses on queries, waiting for news on partials or fulls, waiting for results of submissions, waiting for publication, reviews, and on and on.

So we have all the time in the world to think things like...

"OK, it's been 56 hours since I clicked the Send button on my submission. I haven't heard anything back yet. That must mean if got lost in cyberspace." or "No news is good news." followed by "No news is bad news."

It should just be waiting. But it isn't. It is dedicated time for our fertile imaginations to go into overdrive.

Two days ago, I sent my latest serial to the magazine editor for approval. And now I have what I call Refresh Syndrome (the main symptom is uncontrollable clicking of the Refresh button on my inbox). I haven't heard back yet.

Key frantic imaginings, which go along the lines of "I haven't heard back yet because the fiction editor must have liked it enough to send it to the editor in chief, who is now reading it. That's a good sign." Which is immediately followed by "I haven't heard back yet because there is something in it she doesn't like and is writing the revision letter." Logic -- meaning the voice that says "It's only been two days and they have other things to do. Relax."-- has no place here.

My husband is a scientist. Scientists have to wait, too. But they don't stand over an experiment muttering to themselves and thinking up multiple scenarios about what is going on, all while knowing that it will be days before they can expect some kind of meaningful results. No, they just make notes and get on with another project.

Waiting requires us to be detached, cool, logical. These are not things a writer is known for. At least not this writer. Yet one more of the bitter ironies of the writer's world.


  1. Lol I feel your pain. I have never been patient with anything.

    The mere thought of waiting for the answer to whether anyone likes my brainchild gives me the chills.

    Good luck!

  2. How true this is!

    George Carlin used to describe a dog's life as always "waiting to wait." I think it's like that with a writer's life too.

    I've developed a method for submitting to cut down on the wait time, particularly for places who have strict cut-off dates: wait until the last minute to submit.

    This has only backfired on me once. An editor told me she would have liked to publish my piece, but had accepted one with a similar theme from someone who had submitted earlier.

    It's one of my favorite rejections, having received both a compliment and a slap in one. :)

  3. oh, Jenna. It's the worst part of the whole process. And you just never know what it means. Big hugs and loads of empathy~ :o) <3

  4. The waiting is the hardest part, as Tom Petty so aptly put it. I have NO patience. And a vivid imagination. So I start with no news is bad news and then imagine all sorts of things - I'm the worst they've ever read and it's being passed around the office because no one can think of a single nice thing to say or it's being passed around the office because everyone needs an example of what NOT to...well, you get the picture. :-/ We can drive ourselves batty. Distractions. New projects. Lunch with friends. Whatever it takes to get through!!

  5. Oh, I definitely agree with the differences in waiting as a writer and as a scientist. For me, at least, it's easier to walk away after an experiment and not worry about it until the results come out. But with writing, it's personal -- and that makes waiting all that much harder.

  6. Ah yes, and here's the kind of waiting I hate: submitting a piece of short fiction via an online magazine's submission form -- and not receiving any kind of email verification that they received my submission at all!

  7. I now have a phone that lets me check my email on it. Any time, any place. This could be a problem.

    The tracking number some magazines send out is the worst! Then I'm compelled to check my progress every hour even though for like two weeks all it will say is "received." But oh boy, when it finally says "in review"...

  8. Waiting is the worst! Impatient people should not be writers, ie, me :) However, nothing gives you more practice at being patient than writing!

  9. You're definitely not alone in your "refresh syndrome." I'm querying agents and my NEW! FAVORITE! HOBBY! is hitting the little 'get mail' button on my Mail program.

  10. I think there's a hole in my keyboard where there was once a refresh key. I don't even know for sure, since I don't even have to look to refresh the screen. It's like braille now.