Saturday, September 21, 2013

What to Do: While Waiting

I recently became acquainted with Vaughn Roycroft at Writer Unboxed because of his excellent post "A Writerly Pilot Light." (Hi Vaughn, if you're reading this!) I connected very strongly with his piece because it discussed the "waiting is hell" concept and then gave a list of absolutely lovely ways to keep yourself afloat.

I don't yet know Vaughn well enough to know exactly what he's waiting on or what he's trying to do, but I do know this spoke to me as much as it did because of the WAY I'm waiting and how much waiting I'm doing. We writers wait a lot. We write and we revise and then we wait for feedback. Then we submit to agents and we wait for them to reject us (or, once in a glorious while, accept us). And then our agents submit our work to publishers and we wait for THEM to reject us (or, once in a glorious while . . . never mind). Followed by more waiting for feedback and more waiting for releases and more waiting for whatever else comes next.

As most of you know, I have a fiction series on submission and a nonfiction book on submission, so the waiting is doubly hard and I've definitely been looking for healthy ways of dealing with the stress. In fact, I wrote about being on submission back in May, rambling about a weird need to connect with other writers to help combat some of the nervous energy. Back then, I hadn't even signed with my second agent yet (for the nonfiction). It's gotten worse since then.

And then Vaughn shows up with this lovely post, recommending that writers do the following things to keep the pilot light burning:
  1. Reading
  2. Writing (something different from your usual writing)
  3. Revisiting/rereading older work
  4. Sharing your work with others
  5. Reaching out/connecting with other writers
I'm doing ALL of these things. And I already was before I read this, which really floored me. I'd sensed that I needed to fuel my mind and remind myself why I was trying to do this publishing thing (and stay in touch with the medium), so I started reading for an hour a day six days a week. I've been writing consistently; blogging, book reviews, arguments with jerks (haha), websites, my webcomics, essays, journal entries. I've been revising and rereading my old stuff; really, it's the projects that aren't on submission, fiddling around with them, or reading old blog posts and old comic issues. I've been sharing my stuff--I have new and old critique partners still checking out my work and offering feedback on it. And I've definitely been connecting with other writers--more than ever lately, through blogging and reading blogs, playing on Twitter, making friends on writing sites, and exchanging thoughts on books.

I thought, in order to give back a little, I might offer my additional ways to keep that light burning. Here they are.
  1. Helping others. As a person with an editing background, I'm well equipped to help other writers, and as an author who's signed with not one but two agents, I know my way around the querying process. I've been participating as a mentor in contests and help threads, helping people learn about querying and publishing options through creating YouTube videos and writing essays, and for my critique partners or writing friends, I've assisted on the development of their books. It increases one's ability to turn out more polished manuscripts, and it leaves you with a group of people who will never forget what you did for them, ready to support you when you need it.

  2. Doing other creative projects. I'm not just a writer; I'm a singer and a sort of passable artist, so I like putting these together with writing sometimes (or not). I do webcomics and share them. I sing songs and post them. I take photos, make websites, bake cookies. Some of y'all might enjoy other things like gardening or sewing or making candles. This can leave you feeling like you're still in touch with that essence that makes you a writer without burning you out by making you do it too often.

  3. Writing about writing. If I'm not in a head space to write new material, I might still enjoy offering my perspectives on writing or analyzing my own work. Find a character questionnaire and fill it out. Answer a survey about your writing habits. Do free-writing exercises involving characters from different books meeting each other or inserting one of your characters into a book you liked. Work on the background of your fantasy world--its map, its history, its invented language. Analyze your dramatic arc for fun or write your book's blurb, synopsis, or author bio (seriously or in a silly way).

  4. Catching up on what you've been neglecting. I don't know about y'all, but when I'm writing I fall behind on any media I want to consume, fall out of touch with friends more, fall way behind with housework, and indefinitely shelve projects. When I'm waiting for an answer on something, I can distract myself and revitalize myself by reconnecting with these fun pastimes or necessary evils, and it turns out to be very cleansing--making it that much more likely that I'll be ready to create again soon.

  5. Planning for the future. If I have a finished project going out to my agent and it's going on submission (i.e., exactly what's happened to me twice now, the second happening when I hadn't resolved the first), I can do things like look for other publishing opportunities for my short stories, decide what I'm going to revise next, do some pre-plotting or research on another project, and get my ducks in a row for whenever I'm ready to jump back in. Preparing to do something often isn't as intimidating as actually doing it, and if you lay the groundwork you're more likely to feel like you're ready to tackle it when the time comes, whereas if you're ready to tackle it but there's all this unsatisfying prep work to do, then you might continue to procrastinate.
And that's where I'll leave you with this. I hope my ideas hit someone in the sweet spot the way Vaughn's hit mine. :)


  1. Great additions to the list, Julie! I've stepped away from the keyboard for the most part this weekend, and I actually did do some catching up (with my sister, in person), and we took a walk during which we both took a bunch of photos. The skies are bright blue here today, so it's been a great way to take the angst out of the waiting.

    Thanks so much for the shout-out! Wonderful job. I'm glad mine hit the spot for you, and I'm sure yours will do the same for others. :-)

    1. I appreciate that, Vaughn, and thanks for stopping by.

  2. I love all of these. Great points on what to do while waiting, or in any kind of limbo, really. Some of these are also great for the so-called writer's block. ;)