Friday, June 29, 2012

The Art of Waiting

Different people wait on things in different ways. Some do it by pacing and panting and nibbling their cuticles. They are the ones you sometimes would like to tell to sit down and be still, because they are making you anxious. Some rant, and rave, and demand an answer immediately, because don't you know who they are? These are the people you sometimes wish you could slap. Then there are those who do it patiently and with grace. They sit quietly, and smile, perhaps with their hands folded neatly on their lap. They seem willing to wait forever, if necessary, with good humor and even better posture. They don't fidget, or tap, or even seem to notice they have been waiting for twice as long as you have.

These are the people you may also want to slap, if you fall into categories One or Two. I have been known to do all three, although usually Option Three is when I'm surrounded by Ones and Twos and wish to annoy them. I don't know what that says about me.

There is an art to waiting, you see. Waiting gracefully requires a certain amount of faith. Faith that regardless of the outcome, an end will arrive, and you will receive what you need.

Right now, there are two things in my life I am waiting on. The first is possibly the biggest and most important thing of my life, but that's not the one I'm going to tell you about. I know, I'm sorry. I wouldn't be a very good writer if I didn't leave you hanging every once in a while, right? But what you do need to know is that at the moment, behaving with the decorum of Option Three is very, very, VERY challenging for me. I am the person who Makes Things Happen. I Get Things Done. I Problem Solve. I attack a challenge from all sides and make a conclusion occur. But these two current hands are tied. Both of them are completely out of my control.

The thing I am going to tell you about is the short story I submitted to an anthology contest. Actually, I'm not going to tell you about the story itself so much as I'm going to use it as an analogy. The deadline for the short story is June 30th. (Tomorrow, as I write this post.) I turned my entry in a few days ago. I felt relief as I pressed the "submit" button, but also, a fair amount of anxiety. I worked hard on the story. In fact, it was not the story I originally intended to submit at all. I had a large chunk of a different story already prepared, and was planning on expanding it and entering that one. A month into it, I realized it just wasn't good enough. It was really good at 2K, but making it into an 8K short was not what it was meant to do. I flailed and flopped around for a while, trying to figure out how to make it work, but couldn't seem to make it happen. One day, I was talking to a friend and describing a weird idea I've always had, how if I could do any science-fictiony or fantasy super skill, it would be to do..."X". (Never mind what X is, it's beside the point!)

And voila...the idea for a new short story unfolded like...well, a little like magic.

Fast forward a month, and I am hitting the submit button.

Then begins the WAITING. The judges will read it. They do not know me. They have never met me. They won't overlook weird writing quirks or a sloppy style because they think I'm cute or funny. There will be no chance to meet with the judges face to face to explain, or justify, or smile winningly. My story will be judged on the inherent quality of the writing and the idea. Also, perhaps, whether it will be a stand out piece that can play nicely with the existing selections in the anthology.

There will be no second chances. If my story is crap, the judges will not contact me and say, "Well, Rebecca, we like YOU, so maybe give this another go? We really want to use something you've written..."

Submitting a story is often like life. Sometimes we are judged solely on unknown qualities and merit. Sometimes we don't have the option of meeting someone face to face and convincing them of our value. Sometimes we don't get to do the one thing we are sure would provide a solution to a question. We may, in fact, not even know what question needs to be asked! We simply hope we are the answer. Sometimes it doesn't matter how many times we write, and re-write, and make our work as perfect as possible, because our story is just not the one they are looking for.

Sometimes, we have to wait, and have faith that everything will turn out exactly as it's supposed to. Sometimes, and more often than not, we don't even know the time frame in which we will be waiting. Several people have asked when will I know if my story has been selected or not? I don't. No announcement or deadline has been made, as of yet, when winners will be notified. It's been suggested to me that if my short doesn't get chosen for the anthology, I should expand it and submit it to a few different places as a novella. I actually like that idea, too. But...

I want to win. I like winning. Who doesn't? However, there are always those times when....well, when one door closes, another opens. Or a window, or a dumbwaiter appears. The point is, sometimes waiting means that something really, really amazing is percolating. When the amazing thing is ready, or maybe when YOU are ready, the waiting will be over.

And no...I don't know when that will be. Have a seat and practice your smile. I'll be over here trying to do the same!


  1. Hi, Rebecca. Excellent name, btw :). This post resonated with me because, well, waiting sucks. I've done my fair share. I knew I was going to marry my husband a year and a half before God clued him in. We tried to have kids for 7 years before we were finally blessed in that area. I hate waiting. So becoming a writer is probably the worst possible career choice, lol. I'll say, though, that for me, the more I have to do it, the better I get at it. I just got sick of having that unsettled, worried feeling all the time, you know? So now, when something is out of my control, I just refuse to worry about it. I do something else. I still worry some, but for me, i'm much happier playing the waiting game this way.

    Best of luck!

    1. Yes! Rebecca's are awesome ;D I'm glad you were able to identify with this post! And yes, practice does make me better at waiting...sometimes...depends on what the thing is I'm waiting for, lol!
      Distracting oneself and getting involved in another pursuit while awaiting a reply is probably the ONLY way to really win at the waiting game! Thanks for the reminder, too :)

  2. I'm so with you on this. I feel like I've been waiting for the past 12 months. I knew my husband was going to propose but I couldn't stand waiting for him to take his jolly old time (he did, and in his jolly old time in the end, and it's all good ... NOW ;). I've been applying for jobs for 2 years. I've been querying my first manuscript for 2 years (and have rewritten the entire thing since beginning querying) and am now getting requests for pages, but still waiting. And now, I'm waiting for the UK Border Agency to see fit to pull my visa application out of Mt. Everest and process it, since they already, y'know, took my £561 application fee 5 weeks ago. And I know I may have a quick wait, or a very long wait (some people have been waiting 9 months). It's not easy to wait without your passport, especially when you have a holiday booked!

    So... all that to say, I completely agree. I go back and forth between nail-nibbling, ranting, sitting quietly and being confident, and then start the process over. I know from past experience that things work their own way out, and usually when they do it all happens at once. For me, it's about trying to stop being a control freak and just breathe and make the most of whatever I *can* do right now. I have to face that challenge every day. Hopefully getting better at it as time goes on ;)

    Best wishes on your waiting, and the outcome!

    1. Thank you, Cheyenne! And you are right, the process is very often cyclical. Some days it's easy to let go, and practice the knowledge that all things work out as they should, other days, it's like, Hey! If I run around in circles REALLY FAST and make a lot of noise, things will happen NOW! Sometimes they do indeed, and those are often the times when things don't actually work out in my favor, either! LOL So, yes, I'm, continually re-learning that every thing has it's time, and place :)