How to Survive the Waiting Game

Photo credit: lett -/\= on Flickr
It's no secret to most writers that a large part of the writing process is actually the waiting process. Let's face it, we writers have to learn to wait a lot. For example:
  • We wait for our manuscripts to cool between writing and editing. 
  • We wait for beta readers and critique partners to get back to us. 
  • We wait to hear back from agents and editors while querying
  • We wait to hear back from agents and editors while editing again. 
  • We wait until we're able to share fantabulously exciting book-related news to the world. 
And so on.

They say patience is important, but I think it's twice as important for writers as it is for everyone else, because we truly can't escape the inevitability of waiting, nor should we try to.

You see, the trick isn't to try to avoid the waiting altogether, it's to learn how to deal with the waiting so we don't go crazy. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Don't look at it. What "it" is depends on what exactly you're waiting for. If you're waiting to hear back from beta and CPs about your WIP, then don't look at your WIP. If you're waiting to hear back from agents and editors while querying, hide that query. If you're waiting to hear back from agents and editors who are looking at your partial or full—put the WIP away and for the love of God, don't look at it. Why? The answer is simple. If you look at your WIP or query letter after you've already sent it, chances are you're going to find a mistake. A typo. A misplaced comma. Something that's going to drive you crazy and give you an unnecessary panic attack about how whatever you sent is atrocious because of that one error.

    Look, you've already sent your work out. You can't retract it now, you can't update with edits, you can't fix anything. So save yourself the anxiety attack and keep your work hidden until you get feedback. In this situation, ignorance is most certainly bliss. 

  • Distract yourself. This may seem somewhat obvious, but we writers tend to be a little obsessive. It's one of the quirks that many writers share, and because of that, it makes the waiting game much more difficult because we can't. Stop. Thinking. About it. It's all in our heads, and we're usually aware of it, but it really makes things much more difficult than need be.

    Solution? Find a distraction. Many distractions. Read a bunch of fabulous books, start brainstorming your next WIP, watch a lot of crappy TV and catch up on your Hulu queue. Whatever it is, make sure it's sufficient enough to keep your mind off whether or not you have fantastic (or terrible) news sitting in your e-mail inbox. 

  • Set your e-mail to automatic notifications. Whether or not you're able to do this step will depend largely on the technology you have available. I've had my e-mail set to automatically notify me when I have mail for years (both on Windows and Mac computers, so it's available on both platforms) and truly, it's a lifesaver during the waiting game because it saves me the temptation of sitting in my e-mail inbox and pressing "refresh" every five minutes. My computer and devices tell me when I have e-mail without having to check it, so unless I've been notified, I know I can rest easy because there isn't a response waiting for me in my inbox. It's a little convenience that has saved me quite a few headaches. 
Those are just a couple tips for surviving the waiting game, but now I want to hear from you: What tips do you have for waiting writers?


J Falkner said...

And I thought I was the only one clicking refresh until my inbox revealed the jewel of an unread email! Thanks for this post, I definitely needed the reminder to Stop Waiting and Do Something!

Ava Jae said...

Absolutely! It's something I think every writer occasionally needs to remember. :)

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