The Waiting Game: Making the Meantime Meaningful

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” — Carl Sagan

If only there was an app to expedite the process.

Ever feel like this?

During one of my first writers’ conferences, a featured speaker said it took him ten years of writing daily to complete his first novel. Some days he sat for hours, only to produce a single sentence. Another author shared that after each agent query she sent, she’d awaited a response before submitting to another.

AGH!!!!!! Just hearing the scenarios was enough to make me want to pull my hair out or run sprints. I wasn’t  yet done with my first novel, and it took strength not to contact every agent in the Writer’s Market—twice. (Emails get missed, you know.) Of the virtues I was born with patience, isn’t one of them.

All creative artists face the waiting game. We hear good news, then wait until it comes into fruition, hoping it won’t dissipate in the meantime. We submit for great opportunities, then wait to learn if we’ve landed them. It can take days, weeks or months for responses from agents, publishers and reviewers. And sometimes we can’t share awesome news bubbling up inside us until negotiations have been signed and sealed. Not easy! But that doesn’t mean we have to suffer.

5 Ways to Make the Meantime Meaningful:

1. Create. Nothing makes time fly, or have more value, than submerging ourselves in creative work we enjoy. By the time the goofy old watch-pot boils, we can have other works on-deck. If you don’t have another project at the ready, come up with something new.

2. Distract.  Poor Richard (aka Benjamin Franklin) knew that pots of water boil, whether one watches the brew or not. His point was simply that time seems longer when we sit around, observing time passage. Watching too long may prompt us to pass out or give up from sheer boredom, making ‘never’ inevitable. So do something else. Switching gears to focus on other tasks can be the best patience-inducing medicine.

3. Act as though ____ has already happened. Before I moved from Miami to Los Angeles, I acted as though I already lived here, submitting for auditions and networking via the web. Those behaviors, though I was really just impatient and obsessed, helped get the ball rolling immediately once I arrived. If you’re waiting for good news from a publisher, act as though you’re a published author. Network. Produce even better work for your readers. Organize your professional life.

4. Celebrate. Good news and results typically evolve from hard work. You’ve finished your novel, screenplay or portfolio. If you’re a performer with a call-back, you had a great first audition. So, celebrate! The “prize” you’re awaiting isn’t the biggest accomplishment; the work you did to get there is, in my view.

5. Rest. If there’s one thing we creatives tend to lack, it’s rest. If you can, fill some of the meantime with a pedicure, a movie or venture off on a mini road trip. Rest enhances our creativity, productivity and work quality more than most of us realize.

While we can’t make time move faster or force desired outcomes, we can make the meantime a lot nicer. 😉 From my experience, it’s well worth the effort.

Are you patient? How do you deal with the meantime? What’s the toughest wait-time you’ve had to endure? 

Leave a comment

45 Comments

  1. SO true, August. The other recommendation I’d have is to help others celebrate. Community and good friends help to vent to. Good luck!

    Reply
  2. mgmillerbooks

     /  October 22, 2012

    Agreed. Waiting to hear back is hard. I didn’t have any support when I started writing seriously and soliciting years ago, so I was on my own. I just kept writing, though, which is the best thing one can do. One of the longest wait times I had (not counting those I solicited and never heard back from at all) was three years from William Morris. She said, “Sorry, lost it under my desk,” which made me wonder just what the heck else was under that desk of hers. Her first husband maybe?

    Reply
    • Writing’s my best medicine, too, MG. Wow… three years?!? What did her first husband think of it? (If he didn’t read it, lemme at him. ;))

      Reply
  3. Coleen Patrick

     /  October 22, 2012

    I am learning patience. I am definitely better about it than I was when I was younger. But after rushing through projects, baking experiments and even fun things like vacation, I’ve seen the error in my ways. Well mostly. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Great post, August. Patience is definitely not my virtue, but I’m learning its vital in the publishing industry!

    Reply
  5. I once received a response to a query from a publisher…nine months after I sent the query. Everything subsequent to that seemed short. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Patience and staying in the moment is one of the many things I’m working towards. With a dissertation and a couple of unfinished novels on my plate, I am learning to accept that time and hard work are the key components to getting things done.

    Reply
  7. You ever see that old poster where one buzzard says to the other buzzard,, “Patience my ass, I’m gonna kill something.” After a generation of waiting for the “right” agent, publisher, story, etc to come along, I gave it up and self published. Now there’s no more waiting, now the trick is trying to keep up.

    Reply
  8. Great tips. It seems creative types and children have a lot in common when it comes to learning patience 😛 I use all those tactics on my kids while waiting in lines, waiting for Dad outside his work, before a movie starts, etc.

    Reply
  9. I have no patience for anything, so distraction with a new project is my best antidote. I also find that creativity breeds creativity–in other areas–and that helps prevent getting stale, too. After a writing project is completed, I turn to music, and after music, go to stained glass, or acting, or whatever project du jour. I also find little bits of each creep into the other projects, too. One of my acting friends tells me the thriller dialogue in parts reads like a play, and artist friends comment on the visuals.

    Just read a neat short article from a VO pro who advocating channeling your inner kid. That whole “dance like nobody’s looking” advice. (Except I can’t dance worth beans….)

    Reply
    • Ooh, great one, Amy. Nothing helps me switch gears like music. With your many talents, other than dancing (LOL), I’m not surprised that other art forms help keep you afloat. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Writing really does demand patience. It’s difficult when you’re used to getting a project done quickly to face the much longer time requirement of writing a book and trying to get it published. One really has to assume a day-by-day mentality or risk going a bit crazy. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Yes! Yes times 5! What really works for me is stating my goal in the present. Not, “I’m going to be a bestselling author” but “I AM a bestselling author.” I also hold the emotions, what it would feel like to live in that reality during my meditations. Sounds woo-woo I know, but it really works. 🙂

    Reply
    • I say bring on the “woo-woo!” 😉 Great method there, Serena. Having faith really does alter the way we maneuver, drawing our goals closer. Now if I could just get myself to follow suit and meditate…

      Reply
      • I’m certainly far from perfect at it, but it’s getting to be more of daily habit. Whenever I’m away from it for a bit, when I start back up again I always feel this huge relief.

  12. Great tips! I do #3 all the time. That’s like the advice to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. 🙂

    Reply
  13. These are really good tips, August! I’m not patient at all, so I need all the help I get to make it through all the waiting in life.

    Reply
  14. I am so impatient, so starting something new is always my best bet. I love shiny things – so anything that attracts my attention is good to help me wait. LOL

    Reply
  15. ah, the waiting. Is there anything more tantalizingly sweeter than the taste of anticipation? The possibility, the fantasy, the looming changes.

    For this, I embrace all forms of anticipation.

    When it gets to be too much, or sometimes unpleasant, I re-direct that energy into either having fun in life, or obsessing about my next story.

    Reply
  16. I am definitely an impatient person. I think, for me, the hardest part is wanting to write full time but realizing that I’ll probably need to spend a few years working what my hubby calls the “9 to 9” before I can make that work. At some point, I realized publishing multiple books is really the only way to make enough money as a writer to keep the lights on and the cupboards stocked. (Most writers these days don’t get big advances on their first books, especially in the romance genre.) Since writing and finding a publisher for each book takes time, alas, I, too, am playing the waiting game.

    Reply
    • We’re definitely expected to be triple threats, or more, as writers today. I feel blessed to be supporting myself through writing, but my head definitely feels the weight of wearing many writing hats. 😉 Your hard work will pay off, as I’m sure it’s begun to already. Keep me posted!

      Reply
  17. Raani York

     /  October 22, 2012

    I love your blog post – it’s as usually written so well – and it ALWAYS shows exactly what I feel – what I should do, and what I should provide to get closer to what I want… like patience…
    I’m probably the most impatient person there is. LOL If I want something, I want it NOW. I know it’s important to be patient… during the writing process as well as during the publishing process. My brain knows – but my “little devil” still wants it now… *sigh*
    I wish I could pray… “Dear Lord, give me patience please – RIGHT NOW!” LOL

    Reply
    • Ha! That quote should go on t-shirts and coffee mugs, Raani. Impatience isn’t always a bad thing, when it comes to getting things done, CHOP CHOP! 😉 Then, no matter how we go about our careers, certain events and circumstances simply take time. It’s our job to make that time useful, or at least tolerable, and continue producing our best work.

      Thanks for making me laugh!

      Reply
  18. August I never had patience and I didn’t understood the supposed wisdom in this Chinese proverb ‘Pray for an uneventful life.’ But recently something changed and I was forced to see things differently.
    There was a time in my life when dramatic events were a daily occurrence – looking back I see how crazy that was. Last year nothing moved in my life including my book. It was like being caught in the middle of an hour glass. Aargh!!
    I was like the author who ‘shared that after each agent query she sent, she’d awaited a response before submitting to another.’
    I finally took my book back from a publisher and have decided to self publish. I am still being faced with delays every step of the way, no matter how fast I work. And let me tell you I can only laugh at the absurdity of it now or I would auto – combust with frustration.
    My best advice is to work the ‘law of attraction’ by giving gratitude. See the ‘lull’ as a gift for building up your stamina for a time in the near future when you are going to be in demand.
    As you rightly say ‘if there’s one thing we creatives tend to lack, it’s rest.’
    All the hard work is done, the seeds are planted and the beauty has yet to burst forth.
    Celebrate your hard work and know it’s all happening at root level,
    Fondest regards,
    Mary @goddessmeca

    Reply
    • Giving gratitude. I love that, Mary! Celebrating and giving really can’t be emphasized enough. I also love the fact that you see the humor in resistance. It can be mighty entertaining! More so in hindsight. 😉

      Reply
  19. Great post, August… and, in my case, uncannily topical.

    I’m in a holding pattern, flying loops around great news — but unsure at the moment which strip we’ll be using. Should know soon.

    In the meantime, I’m aligning with your advice by plugging away at the current WIP… though it’s awfully tempting to slack off on your advice to distract. Hmm… I never watch movies…

    Reply
    • Uh… Did I say slack off? It’s research! 😉

      Sounds like you’re doing precisely as you should, John. I know it’ll pay off. Keep writing. I hope you also find windows for R&R along the way.

      Reply
  20. I am not the most patient person in the world. Ok…so I have like ZERO! I am totally printing this and putting it on my cork board to refer to time and time again! I’m gonna need it. LOL!!

    Reply
  21. Sounds like you are in the waiting place! So something is done! Hooray! How splendiferous! Eat chocolate! Was that on the list? What about dance on the table? Shake your groove thang?

    *lifts cyber glass*

    Here’s hoping good things come your way. And fast! 😉

    Reply
  22. This is such wonderful advice. Thanks, August! I love your inspirational voice. I know you are practicing these things while you do your own waiting. All the best to you!

    Reply
  23. I’ve learned a lot of patience in the past few years and I think I’m a little better at this than I am at getting through the kids’ homework. I’m determined to do it right and not cut corners and for that reason, I won’t rush and will remind myself to slow down and be patient daily.

    Reply
  24. Yep, patience is a virtue I work on too. But I have no problem filling my time while I wait for things. 🙂

    Thankfully, I compartmentalize well so when something isn’t happening, I just shove it over into the later compartment and move along. Of course, then I sometimes forget about it, but there’s Reminder Hubby Man comes in. LOL.

    Reply
  25. This is so true! I am a firm believer in The Secret and one thing it states over and over again is that you have to live like you have already reached your goal. I think confidence attracts positive energy and we can never get enough of that!

    Reply
  26. I love ‘making the meantime meaningful.’ So much of life is wasted ‘waiting,’ when we could actually be living.

    Reply
  27. Create and distract – yes! Being a writer and author is constantly being in limbo. We need to make the waiting time count. Thanks for the reminder. Love the Carl Sagan quote. I saw him speak at my college the year before he died. An amazing man. He must have had these moments too 🙂

    Reply
  28. TEN YEARS!?!? no! i have things to do. but we all do and your post does a good job of reminded me that they will always be there. good luck and hooray for you! 🙂 -m

    Reply
  29. Kourtney Heintz

     /  October 24, 2012

    All excellent advice that I plan to use August. I’ve sent a few submissions to publishers. Queried new agents. And I’m going to finish my agent list for the next book. Then a week off in NYC before I dive into revisions of book 3. Thanks for reminding me to rest. I forget that often. 🙂

    Reply
  30. I’ve been blogging more as I wait for e-mails from media outlets, agents and publishers that never seem to arrive!
    Do you have any suggestions for agents that may be interested in a bellman/starving writer, August?

    Reply
  31. I’m so patient, I take my time saying I’m patient. I have so many pots on the stove, and i always feel like that arcade game in which you have to drop quarters into the game and have that arm push all the coins to the edge. You never know if the quarter you just played will be the one that will send the coins into the prize shute, but you keep trying, because you know there was progress, even if it’s hard to see.

    I deal with the meantime by staying busy. That’s not hard to do with three kids and three teams to coach, and we dads don’t multitask well, so things are pretty linear.

    The toughest wait time? The weekend between having tumors taken out of my throat, and the phone call Monday that they were benign.

    Reply

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