“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
— Henry David Thoreau
I admit it: There’s nearly nothing as pleasurable in a writer’s life as the moment of fulfillment, that warm buoyancy of completion, validation or approval. As a writer, these moments are unpredictable, on a timeline all their own. Maybe you’ve experienced the fulfillment of having finished a draft, or met a deadline. At its apex is the fulfillment of validation; someone wants/loves/publishes what you’ve written. In that moment, all you know is that at the top of the steep climb of your hard work, fulfillment is the mother of all endorphin rushes—a runner’s high meets unconditional love manifest in the biggest pat on the back.
Waiting, on the other hand, can often feel buzzy and uncomfortable. An anxious tilting toward the future that promises to bring…well, that’s just the question, isn’t it. When you wait, you enter the shroud of the unknown. Inside waiting it’s things-go-bump-in-the-night dark; you might even lean toward despair before you know the outcome. You wonder what is coming next, if you deserve to have it, if you really want it, if you are ready to take the risk. Most writers I know are sensitive people. You might let the waiting become too heavy, too much, push you toward despair.
The best thing you can do for yourself as a writer is learn to enjoy waiting. Treat it as an exercise in trust. As writers, without trusting the outcome of your work, you’re all too susceptible to doubt and despair.
It’s important to learn how to wait pleasurably, confidently. A radical notion, isn’t it? We do it all the time in other ways, allow anticipation to be a giddy thing, withhold the pleasure of food, sex, the last few pages of a book because we want to savor it before it’s over. And while it may not seem that waiting on an agent, a publisher, feedback, your own characters to tell you their tale, I promise you there is just as much potential for pleasure in the anticipation in waiting if you remember the most important thing:
After fulfillment, what comes next? Eventually the blush fades, the high recedes and you are back to doing the work. At the end of the day all that matters is loving the work. The work is all you have. That’s all there really is. Sometimes the work leads to validation and publication; sometimes the work leads to a deep feeling of inner satisfaction, but it’s the thing itself that drives everything else and gives it meaning.
So: while you wait, keep working. Keep producing, gnashing, stretching, refining, testing, polishing, sharing…
Don’t ever believe the lie that because it hasn’t happened yet, or soon enough, it won’t.
Most of all: Persist.
When all else fails try this:
- Use your waiting time to catch up on reading you haven’t done for your own pleasure
- Make a list of what you most enjoyed about writing this project/contacting this person/engaging with the situation you now wait on
- Practice sharing the good news even before it happens (it’s a good mental game to trick you out of discouraging thoughts)
- Finish something else. Finishing an undone project has a magic way of making you feel better
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my books: Forged in Grace (a novel of suspense); Make a Scene and Write Free.
Looking for a Writer’s Retreat that will take you deeper into the work and still leave you replenished? First Annual WriterPath Plot & Scene Retreat. May, 2014.
I’m also working on a new book called A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. Keep up with the blog for more posts on this subject. Subscribe if you haven’t already!