Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
What’s waiting got to do with writing? Sure, the two words share many of the same letters, but writing is an action verb and waiting isn’t. Right?
Writing and waiting have a lot in common. Few beginning writers are prepared for how steadfast a companion Waiting will be on their writing journey. We wait to hear back from an agent or an editor, for publication, for reader response, for another contract. We wait for a breakthrough, for someone to take our writing seriously, for the world to change.
What do you do while you wait?
We have options. Whine, pout, sink into a mire of discouragement. Wine (how did that get in there? Oh, yeah. To represent turning to unhelpful or even dangerous habits when the crisis is “I’m in waiting mode. Again.”) We can opt for squirming, but that won’t get us far. An easy path is to allow discontent to make us irritable and hard to live with.
While we wait, we can implement a number of much wiser options.
Keep Writing While You Wait.
Work on your next project. Write in another genre just for fun. Write the thank you notes you meant to send three months ago. Just write. While you wait, don’t let your fingers or brain forget how to create.
Or Take a Break.
Your soul may actually need to not write for a short time. Take a brief break to heal, recover, rest, to do what you can’t do while under a deadline. Enjoy nature without worrying about the time. Enjoy sipping rather than slugging your coffee. Take pleasure in tackling a chore you haven’t allowed yourself to think about when you were thinking about word counts.
Learn About the Publishing Industry.
Are you well informed about how the industry works? How can you learn more about it? Read articles by and about the industry. Follow literary agency blogs. Follow publishers’ blogs and Facebook pages. Subscribe to an industry magazine. Listen to podcasts about publishing. Listen to author podcasts.
Dive Back Into Study of the Craft of Writing.
No author has yet to exhaust all there is to learn about writing. And reader tastes keep changing. Even the Chicago Manual of Style changes its guidelines. If you no longer wrestle with Point of View issues, dive deeper into learning about goal, motivation, and conflict. Or study the art of nuance.
Get Your Systems in Order While You Wait.
While you wait, take inventory of the systems you’re using. Are they working for you? Is your filing system “clobbed up,” as one of my children used to say? Did you always want to learn how to use Canva or how to schedule your social media posts? Do you have antiquated systems of software, hardware, or underwear that need upgrading? The wait may be just what you needed to take care of those issues and set you up for working more efficiently in the future.
Research Without Rushing.
What have you wanted to research but never felt you had the time? While you’re waiting to hear back from a publisher, let yourself linger in the research. Who knows what nuggets of ideas you might discover?
Stay in the Game.
Don’t check out because no one is responding to your queries. Stay in the game. Consider yourself a writer. Make the kinds of adjustments restaurants needed to make to stay viable during a pandemic and its aftermath.
Build While You Wait.
Waiting isn’t a time to tear down anything except unwise expectations. It’s a time to build.
- Build relationships…in the industry, in your community, with other authors, with readers, and within your family. Stay connected. Or get connected.
- Build your platform. We’ve all been told how difficult if not impossible it is to grab the attention of an acquisitions editor unless we have a robust platform. Sometimes we think of that as mere numbers. But in some ways it’s more like a sturdy infrastructure that is built to support the “industry” that is your book, your writing career. The stronger and larger it is, the more stability it provides for writing future books. While you wait, invest in building a robust, thriving, interactive, engaged platform.
- Build your library. During a time of enforced waiting, build your library of books and other resources. Think carefully about what your library says about who you are as a writer. Build your non-book portfolio. While you wait for a book contract, write magazine articles, blog posts, stellar and engaging newsletters. Write for a ministry or nonprofit. Write thoughtful pieces that are within your brand and help show who you are as a writer and what you have to contribute to conversations.
Growing and waiting share so much common ground. While you wait, one of the steps with highest impact is to use it as a time to grow. Grow not just in the craft of writing, but as an author. Broaden your knowledge base while you broaden your shoulders and toughen your skin to endure the natural blows of this occupation. While you wait, grow as a person. Are you growing more compassionate, empathetic, stronger, kinder, more self-controlled? It’s a perfect time to practice.
Read widely in your genre while you wait. You’ll be a better writer for it. Read outside of your chosen genre. You’ll be a better writer for it. Read for leisure, and read for a deeper understanding of syntax and rhythm and dialogue and the power of a great word choice or well-turned phrase. If you’re open to it, you can’t help but absorb good things when you read good books.
Support Other Authors.
Some of the most successful debut authors are those who invested in helping other writers succeed. They served on launch teams. They shared important social media posts for other writers. They prayed for them, cried with them, rejoiced with them, and helped get the word out about their books…with no hidden agenda, no tally of expecting anything in return. Whether you’re ever published or not, if you support other writers, buy their books, write reviews, cheer them on, you WILL have had an impact on the lives of readers.
Waiting doesn’t have to mean stagnating. It can be a time of great productivity and reward. We can cross our arms and tap our feet impatiently, which gets us nowhere, or we can take the next step and the next and watch something good emerge from the waiting.
What have you found helpful as you navigate the wait in writing?
Cynthia you are such an encourager. While I wait I try to learn a new creative skill, right now it’s weaving. I’ll get immersed in a different creative process and find one day that my characters are jealous and want my attention back. Then I can pick them up with a renewed outlook and often, a new plot twist or character quirk. Thanks for being such a positive influence!
Kim, the new creative endeavor is a brilliant idea!
Different kind of waiting, here, and the nights do get long.
I am waiting for the day,
and sometime soon it may be here,
and all I can really say
is that I really need a beer,
for who can contemplate too long
arrival of time to depart?
I know neither poem nor song
that will help make fast my heart.
It will hurt if I’m awake;
don’t want to go, though, in my sleep;
pray the Lord my soul to take,
but not, please, while counting sheep.
Like the Caesars, let me meet
my death alert, and on my feet.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
But as I wait in one area, I can move in others…thank you for the motivating ideas!
Marsha, thanks for pointing out that waiting is not wrong or to be avoided, but that while we’re waiting, there’s no sense stagnating! 🙂
Virginia Sue Graham
Thank you for these rich nuggets of ideas!
Thanks for considering them!
By waiting on the Lord I learn patience–and new endeavors! For relaxing creatively I used to paint with oils, (became allergic to many of the color ingredients), so I decided to take another path with water colors. Wonderful opportunity! And what a blessing on writing He’s given us through this post, Cynthia–thank you!
Patricia, your story about moving from oils (allergic) to watercolors is a brilliant example of pivoting so you can keep your momentum! Thanks for sharing it.
Judy Gordon Morrow
Such wise and wonderful words, Cynthia–thank you! I so appreciated your timely encouragement.
Glad you were encouraged.
Waiting and writing are separate journeys happening in different parts of my brain. The paths cross now and then, but they run on different tracks, at different speeds.
Great insight, Shirlee.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Definitely reading widely, getting out into nature, and working on the next book! Oh, and discovering new authors and sharing about their books.
Discovering new authors!!!!!
This is really good, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing it. This line made me laugh out loud: Do you have antiquated systems of software, hardware, or underwear that need upgrading? Hilarious. I find waiting “easier” if I consider that God is molding all the pieces of the puzzle together. Sometimes those pieces need reshaping whether in me or in someone else or both. His timing is trustworthy. Thank you again.
Excellent point about the reasons for the waiting.
Thank you, Cynthia.
Beautiful encouragement, Cynthia. One thing I’m learning is to cover my ears and eyes from negative and divisive voices because, even with their best intentions, they can rob our positive creativity.
Great idea, Shelli!
Excellent advice! Thank you so much, Cynthia.
These are such wise words, Cynthia. Thank you for them and the encouragement they bring.
Thank you, Lynne.