A couple of months ago, I completed a draft of a new novel that did not stink so badly that I had to shut my computer down in order to get some fresh air. And when it was complete – after five years of work and revision and personal trauma and starting over – I did what all writers do, if they are as gloriously lucky as I am. I sent it to my long-suffering agent for feedback.
Now, this would seem to be the beginning of the story, right? It calls to mind the opening scene from Romancing the Stone. I should be tearful, joyful, free at last! I might take a shower and put on pants and go have lunch some place in an actual public forum, maybe even make conversation with another human being! I might clean my desk of all the rubble that has gathered over the years and clear my inspiration boards. I could spend days, at my leisure, going through old boxes or files, discovering my next story idea or five or six. I might take a little drive, bake a little, straighten my linen closet, or spruce up my planters out front. It stands to reason that I would even consider a haircut.
I did all of that. All of it. More than once, actually. And yet, as I write this post I have not heard back from my agent. Many moons have passed. Seasons, y’all. And it is normal. I repeat, it is absolutely normal. Anybody who’s not new to this industry knows it takes time to write the book, just as it takes time to publish one. So, if I know this so well, why do I still get night sweats the minute I turn in a project? I mean, besides my enormous ego freaking out that no one will love me anymore? I think it’s because I’m not a waiter.
Are you a waiter? Is anyone really a good waiter? One who waits? I really want to know because it is a skill that I simply have never been willing to fully embrace. I can act like a waiter for about fifteen minutes before I start to twitch. And I don’t mean the Can-I-take-your-order kind of waiter, I mean the kind of person who gracefully accepts the passage of time while he or she anticipates the outcome of his or her whole existential purpose. Because THAT is what it feels like to me when I turn in a writing project. My whole life depends upon the outcome.
Ridiculous. And yet…
This weekend I taught a workshop for the Atlanta Writers Conference and I will tell you a secret: I came up with this workshop because it is packed with all the skills and wisdom that I need to remember to keep in play in my own life in order to survive my own delusional fits of well, delusion. And I found myself saying to this room full of freaked-out writers who had been pitching to agents and editors all weekend, exactly what I needed to hear from someone else.
You are not waiters, you’re writers.
It’s so simple, but true. Just as we aren’t publishers (well, generally speaking), we shouldn’t be waiters. Our part in things is just this one thing: to write. Not to wait. Not ever to wait. Waiting is a matter of perspective, I realized, and maybe not an actual thing at all. Maybe what waiting really is, is the wasting of time. And our time should be spent doing that one thing: writing. Because really what all the fuss and the night sweats is about is time and the passing of it and the running out of it, before I can write what I want to write. Huh.
So, whatever you do today, don’t wait. Don’t wait. In the end, the time will pass, regardless of what you or anyone else decides to do with it. Paint your toenails if it makes you feel better. Eat two pounds of tangerine jelly beans (I’m not saying this happened). Send egregious emails to almost perfect strangers asking for advice if it helps you sleep. Time doesn’t care. Publishing doesn’t care. They are what they are, and so are you. Remember and you’ll feel better. You’re not a waiter, you’re a writer.
You know what to do.
* * * *
Kimberly Brock is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, THE RIVER WITCH (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. A literary work reminiscent of celebrated southern author Carson McCullers, THE RIVER WITCH has been chosen by two national book clubs.
Kimberly’s writing has appeared in anthologies, blogs and magazines, including Writer Unboxed and Psychology Today. Kimberly served as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club from 2012 to 2014, actively spearheading several women’s literacy efforts. She lectures and leads workshops on the inherent power in telling our stories and is founder of Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop. She is also owner of Kimberly Brock Pilates.
She lives in the foothills of north Atlanta with her husband and three children, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at kimberlybrockbooks.com for more information and to find her blog.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Two pounds of tangerine jelly beans would be pretty impressive...if it had happened, of course. :>
Thanks for the extra kick in the pants, Kimberly! Sometimes that's exactly what we need to help us keep our heads down and on track.
Two pounds of Jelly Bellies will also kick you in the pants. Just in case you ever wondered. LOL
ROFL. For me it is a Jelly Belly combo of Strawberri Daquiri, watermelon, cherry and green apple. They're gluten free you know. 🙂
Jelly Beans are MAGIC. Ask Jack! 😉
Sigh. I don't know if impatient people naturally are attracted to writing, or if anyone, faced with this amount of waiting, would pull their hair. (That was a rhetorical question).
Same boat here, Kimberly, waiting....
But looking ahead, too, to the next book, and the next...
Thanks for the, as always, insightful post.
I'm excited for your new work!!
I am on retreat and one of my fellow writers is so prolific it inspires me. I write/try to sell, write/try to sell. He writes, writes, and writes more, and when an opportunity for something comes along, dips into his catalogue of stories to polish it up. This dude really writes! Trying to catch a bit of this productivity.
Lucky Kathryn! Enjoy retreat and write, write, write!!
People like that are both inspiring and daunting. That kind of a mixed bag is tough sometimes in a writer friend. I hope the Ernest Hemingway room is inspiring the hell out of you!
Agree, Jenny. It's HARD to be in the waiting room while others are zipping past. It's hard to be in the writing chair when others are zipping past. Sigh
I have to admit, one of the thinks I love about switching to indie publishing is the shorter wait times. I have my critique partners (right now, they're looking at scene 60, and I am done with the draft which has 73 scenes). I have my editor's schedule to work with, and she's not open until mid-July. And I wait for my cover artist, but he's usually fast. I generally do my own formatting, so there's not much wait time there.
At my age, I don't know if I could handle the pace of traditional publishing. Been there, done that. Got the gray hair.
That can absolutely be a perk, Terry!
Love, love, LOVE this post. Just what I needed this week to boost my impatient, hate-to-wait spirit. Thanks, Kimberly!
I think we need HATE-TO-WAIT t shirts! Also a great title! And #hate2wait hashtag! Let's put it on mugs! 🙂
I'll get two of those mugs, please! Extra large ones, though, right?????
One for each fist.
I'd buy that mug. I can't even wait for the damn coffee.
Been there, done that...
I hope you KEEP doing it! 😉
Love this! We need to focus on what we have control over, not what we don't. This means strengthen our craft through writing, and adding more stories to our "finished" folders. 🙂
MORE STORIES!!!! Yay!
Amen to what everyone has said here, Kimberly. I can always tell when I'm writing, because the rest of my life seems SO much more joyful...if I'm not writing, and simply agonizing as I wait for someone else to write whatever I've read (and, yes, traditional publishing moves at a molasses pace), I find myself being irritable with everyone. For the sanity & safety of my family, I need to keep focusing on what I really love, and that's the storytelling. Thank you for the reminder.
Me too, Holly! As my husband says, "You are much funnier when you're writing all the time." He's right though - my brain just clicks along faster.
Holly, I'm a HUGE fan of your writing and so I am so pleased you read this and will be turning out thirteen thousand new books next year because you are not waiting. 🙂
Thanks for the wonderful post, Kimberly! I just approved a comment or two so you might want to do a quick pass from the top. *fist bump to my fellow Impatient One*
Worry Warts Unite!
This industry is such a fun mix of hurry-up-and-wait. But I completely agree, those "wait" times shouldn't be wasted times. There are stories to be hatched!
This story egg I'm hatching is giving me a major wedgie but I'm not getting up until it's perfectly formed. 🙂
Thanks for another brilliant post, Kimberly!!! <3
Tis the season for hatchlings! Here's to many fuzzy heads in the nest!
Kimberly, I love this. Although I'm usually quite settled and content in my writing life, I've been struggling lately. Not with finding the words... more along the lines of feeling alone. Thanks for the reminder that, yes, our journey is our own but there are others who certainly understand this road we writers are traveling. And while waiting to hear back on a requested full, I completed a 45K word MG. (Still waiting to hear back on the full - GAH!) Onward, right?
Congrats on submitting a full ms! AND on the 45K MG! I absolutely understand the anxieties of managing our desire to produce stories AND THEN to see them published for readers. It's hard to keep sane and maintain faith in the process. I'm such a Type A - I want to usher everything forward in a nice orderly fashion and see PROGRESS! I have to constantly be reminding myself that there's a line between what's within my control and most of what falls on my side of that line is THE WRITING. I applaud you for being a responsible writer who takes care of business, and I cheer you on and pray for your sanity as you WRITE in the interim between the creativity and the publishing. xoxoxo
I've just sent off my full manuscript at the request of a publisher I had an assessment with at a writer's conference here in Melbourne (Australia). That was Monday. I should say only Monday. And yet I keep checking my email compulsively because of course the poor woman has nothing better to do than read my work. So no, I am not a waiter. I never have been. I used to think it was an age thing but I'm as impatient in my thirties as I was in my twenties so I have to accept that it's just me. In the meantime though, I keep on writing.
Congratulations on a huge accomplishment, Littlemissw! Go dance! Then get to work on the next - only way I've found to survive the waiting...
Thanks. Yes, just got to keep going.
Oh, YAY!! Congratulations on your submission!!!!!
Thank you. I was so excited when she asked (but I tried to play it cool).
Of course you were!
I love your sense of humor. Every single post of yours! And although you may have a gut ache from those jelly beans, let me tell you (not from my experience, of course, but my main character told me this) 2lb. of chocolate-covered peanuts are no walk in the park either! 😉
And, I may have a slight problem with waiting. For anything. Especially writing stuff from other people. My husband may have suggested "patience counseling" for me.
If I find a place that offers it, I'll let you know!
Thanks for the perspective -- I am smiling, laughing, there with you every step of the way. Wish I had taken your class at the conference -- bet it beat three pounds of tangerine jelly beans (now I'm fantasizing about candy corn because it's going on full fall in New England). Terrific post -- best of luck! Louise