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.
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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.
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