Monday, February 3, 2014

On Waiting (and getting hit by trucks)

Hello Secret Lifers :)

This post is coming a little late today, but in a way that seems appropriate, given what it's about (so let's just pretend I did it on purpose then, to drive home my point. Okay? Okay.) I spent most of this morning/early afternoon in the doctor's office, waiting. And while I was there, I was trying to come up with an idea for a blog post, as I hadn't given it much thought yet, since I've spent most of the past week in a sickly haze. So I'm sitting there in the cold little exam room, absently breaking a tongue depressor into several dozen splinters, and waiting for ten...twenty...thirty...however many minutes it ended up being, and I thought: waiting.

There's a topic that most writers know all about.

First things first: I'm not complaining about having to wait. I know how doctor's offices work. I know things get backed up, and I know emergencies happen, and I know that I should be glad the doctor is taking his time about seeing me, because even though I might feel differently, it means that I am not, in fact, dying. So, yay for that!

That doesn't change the fact that waiting sucks. Especially when you're sitting around feeling like you got hit with a truck (but again-- I wasn't actually hit by a truck, so yes, also sitting around counting my blessings).

And for anyone who's been writing for much time at all, you probably see where I'm going with this. Since I embarked on this crazy writing-toward-publication journey oh, five years ago or whatever it's been now, my patience has increased exponentially (also I just spelled that word right on the first try in spite of the cough medicine that's making me slightly delirious and I think I deserve a cookie for that, please and thanks). Notice I said "since I embarked" as in, not just since I started trying to get an agent or since I got one and landed a book deal and embarked on everything I talked about in my last post. Even before that, it feels like, you're always, always waiting. You take part in a contest on a blog, wait on pins and needles to see if your entry gets in, and then spend an embarrassing amount of time refreshing the page with your entry, waiting for comments to see what people think, even if you're afraid to know. You finish chapters, send them of to readers, and wait.

You check your email constantly, and with every second that passes, you're a little more *certain* that obviously they hate it and they just can't find the heart to tell me that and that's why it's taking them so long to get back to me so what was I thinking even sending it to them in the first place because oh god it was so obviously not ready and I've really screwed up this time and oh god I'm going to die alone are you happy now, stupid self?

Okay, maybe your inner voice isn't as insane as mine (I hope not, for your sake), but most writers I know go through some variation of this. We're already all crazy to begin with, and waiting makes us crazier. Fun, eh? And that best part is, it never ends! When you're done waiting for feedback, and you get it all polished up, then you get to wait on queries, and submissions, and reviews, and...really, it just keeps going. So what do you do?

Well, I'm probably not the best role-model for this sort of thing, since despite my best efforts, some days my anxiety-wracked self still ends up in my safe space in the closet eating nutella straight from the jar, BUT, I try. And this is how I deal:

1. By working on something else--something new. I'm always working, at least in my mind. If I'm not actively writing, I'm at least *planning* to write something. Notebooks are being filled with possible scenes and characters for the next book. Because there's always going to be a next book. And really, it's this "next" part that makes the anxiety of waiting so much easier to deal with for me: because if I have something new in the works, I can let my attachment slowly move away from the book that's with my betas or agents or on sub or whatever, and I can invest hope in this new project, instead of anxiety on the old one that's out of my control at the moment. And if things don't pan out with the old book, then I can sleep a little easier knowing that I've already moved on to the next one, anyway

2. By exploring new hobbies--particularly creative ones. Recently I've picked up painting again, and to be honest I'm pretty terrible at it, but you know what? It doesn't matter. Not even to perfectionist me. I let myself be bad at it--and that's really important, for me, when I'm waiting to hear back from people reading my writing, since the stakes surrounding the latter feel much higher. I'm not worried about selling my artwork, or even about ever letting people see it; it's just a way to burn up anxious creative energy without having to worry about whether it's "good enough" or not.

3. By going on a walk, or a run, or just getting out of the house in general.  Honestly, part of the reason I don't like winter is because this gets harder (or just a lot less appealing) during this time of year. Who wants to run or play tennis when it's 9 degrees outside? Not me. I spend a lot of time going on random drives in the winter, because it's a way to get out and into the sunshine but still be warm and snug in my car.

4. By not paying attention to what everyone else is doing, or how quickly things are happening for them. In the age of twitter and tumblr and facebook and WE ALL MUST BE CONNECTED AND AWARE OF EVERYTHING THAT'S HAPPENING TO EVERYONE EVER, this one is hard, ya'll. And yes, I know, I wrote a blog post a couple weeks ago that had my own timeline in, so sorry for being another enabler. I just wrote it because I know people want to know those things, and *sometimes*, in some cases, it can provide you with peace of mind if you're timeline matches up. In this case, I'm talking more about ignoring the occasional instances where, despite all we hear about publishing being a slow, slow business, Author X manages to land a book deal, a hundred foreign rights sales, a movie deal, a theme park deal, etc... all in like...a month. Obviously this is a *bit* of an exaggeration, but you get the point. And I've seen other blogs, and countless industry professionals who'll claim "this doesn't happen, publishing is slow for everyone, blah blah blah". But, um, no. Sure, everyone waits at *some* point, but I personally know people who have had mind-blowingly awesome things happen for them really, really quickly. And I'm happy for them! I really, really am.

But let's be real. It's possible to be incredibly happy for these people even as a little part of you dies inside because you start to feel like "if I was a little better, or if I'd just done x,y, or z like they did, then things would have gone as fast and awesome for me..."  I think that sometimes, even though I know that No no no. You can't get caught up in this line of thinking, even though I know it's reeeally hard not to compare yourself to others in this business.  But just know that even if amazing things are happening for everyone around you, all the time and all at once, while you're still just chilling in the cold little exam room and waiting for things to get awesome (or at least to stop feeling like you got hit by a truck), then it's an okay place to be. I'd say we've ALL been there, at some point--even those Author Xs.

Things will happen when they happen, and they'll take the time they take, and you are awesome and strong and patient, and in the meantime, while you're waiting, I got you this cute picture to look at:

You're welcome ;)

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

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6 secret replies:

  1. It's a miracle I have an F5 key left with all the refreshing I do after uploading something :-)


  2. I found your blog as a miracle in disguise. Came up with a hunch to start a new blog about the secret life of writers to discover it's currently underway. And you just blogged today! This is so amazing I saw it and felt not the tiniest drop of disappointment that other writers have secret lives. One thing off my list. ;)

    The part I related with though is everything about writing, from the crazy feeling of impatience to the having to get everything perfect.

    Cheered me up! :) I'll be sure to check out more of your writing and your new book too.

    1. I'm so glad you found us! And that you were able to relate to some of this :) Thanks for reading!

  3. I've bee having to do # 4 a lot lately. Not just so I don't have to keep up with everyone, but for the sake of my sanity. The bad thing about being connected to everyone is that everyone has an opinion about everything, and trying to take in everyone's opinions makes me go crazy. I've been trying to spend less time online and more time reading and writing. And doing both those things without hearing everyone else's opinion on the matter makes it so much less stressful. Not that I'm going to ever leave the internet entirely! :)

    1. This one is So. Hard. I have to take occasional internet hiatuses myself for all these reasons, and I'm soooo much more productive and at peace with myself when I do. But, like you, I don't see me ever leaving the internet's hard, when that's where all the stuff is happening these days, you know? *shrugs* Oh, day I shall find you!