Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When You're NOT in the Driver's Seat or as Tom Petty Says, "The Waiting is the Hardest Part"

First of all, thanks to everyone for chiming in on the "Does Reading Make You a Better Writer?" post. What a way to rile up the masses! I'd also like to thank Alan Orloff for featuring the post on his illustrious blog in a post entitled, "Smackdown: Reading vs Writing."

The result? As with most things in life, do what's best for you and follow your instincts. Read when it's right for you to read, and write when it's right to write!

Now, for today's topic: Waiting. Don't you hate it? For a bus, a letter, a phone call, a decision... When you're waiting for something in life, you're not in the driver's seat. Whatever the "thing" is you're waiting for takes the wheel.

In the case of writing, you may be waiting to hear back on a query, partial, full, word from an agent or editor, or you may have your work out on submission and be waiting to hear if it has sold. In all of these cases, you are in the submissive state of handing your power over to someone else.

What got me thinking about waiting and being (or not being) behind the driver's wheel is twofold. First of all, I took the picture at the top of this post yesterday when my son and I had lunch at the new Olive Garden in town. Yes, we have a new Olive Garden and that, in itself, was well worth waiting for. The puppy was in a car in front of the restaurant. He seemed to be waiting, too. (Most likely for the shrimp scampi and all-you-can-eat bread sticks and salad, and who could blame him, really?) Secondly, I'm waiting back to hear from a specific agent on a specific submission. I have other submissions out as well, but this one has a time-frame wrapped around it, which makes it far more nerve-wracking.

My question to you is this: What do you do when you're waiting for news? If you're a control freak like me, how do you get past the doubts, the fears, the clock ticking ever-so-slowly yet loud as thunder in your ear?

I've never been good at waiting. I blame it on my Brooklyn DNA. Really, it's not my fault. I can't help that I was born there. In the meantime, I write, tweet, play spider solitaire, write a new blog post, and check my email "in box" like a hundred million times an hour. (Native NY'ers have a reputation for exaggerating. No idea where that comes from.)

What do you do?

55 comments:

Catherine M. said...

Check my email just as much, play Scrabble Cubes, blog, tweet, and talk my husband's ear off about all the what-ifs or might-happens.

And I write. And realize that writing is the best thing to do because you can take all that nervous energy and emotion and put it to use.

Great post!

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm not a fan of waiting either. It's so HARD!!!

I'm always busy, so that helps, but part of my brain (a loud part) is always focused on what I'm waiting for. It can drive me batty some days :)

I'll cross my fingers for you - maybe that'll help :)

Kasie West said...

Oh my goodness, this is a post for me today. I'm waiting. It seems like a common theme in this industry. It is sooooo hard. What do I do? I fret and complain and whine. :) No, I write and read and read blogs. :)

DebraLSchubert said...

Catherine, Yes, writing is the very best thing we writers can do. Glad you liked the post!

DebraLSchubert said...

Jemi, I'll take any crossed fingers I can get. Thanks!

DebraLSchubert said...

Kasie, I hope you get your good news soon. That is all you ever deserve. ;-)

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Read. Write.

Sharon Mayhew said...

Not being in control is really hard. I hate waiting (and cleaning). I find the best thing to do when I am waiting is to find something else to do.
two weeks ago I discovered the (new to us) town we live in has an arts center. I started vlunteering there for a couple hours a week. I spent about twenty years teaching school...These three to five year olds are teaching me tons. Plus they are a great distraction....Critiquing someone else's work does the trip too.

DebraLSchubert said...

Tracy, Words to live by. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Sharon, Volunteering is a brilliant thing to do! I may have to look into that.

Sharon Mayhew said...

It gives you a whole different perspective. Today I learned that if your big sister is having her birthday party at the Holiday Inn, it's really exciting. Exciting enough to make you run around the room and not know what art activities you want to do. Plus, I learned that I'm not the only person who doesn't like stuff on her hands. (Literally not figuratively) :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I work on the next project. There's always a next project! :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Julie said...

My first full request tweaked my brain to a disturbing degree and I was obsessed. And things sparked the anxiousness, like hearing that the agent was reading my manuscript right then and wanted a bio. And then time passed, and I didn't hear anything, followed up and was told that I would hear soon.

It's now been about ten months and I've pretty much given up on ever hearing back, but that experience broke my obsessive streak. I'll hear back when I hear back and with the fulls and partials out now, I just don't think about them. It's weird but I am really grateful for all the crazy on my first full because I've learned now how to let the panic go and work every day on my writing.

But my advice isn't very helpful since I would never wish this experience on you and without it, I'd still be on the manic side. ;)

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks for letting me ride on your coattails, jump on your bandwagon, crowd into your phonebooth (you remember those?), etc., about your Reading vs. Writing topic. It was interesting!

In this biz, it seems that one is ALWAYS waiting for one thing or another. I do what every one else does: work on something else and check my email obsessively. And exercise-that helps.

DebraLSchubert said...

Sharon, Birthday parties at the Holiday Inn? That IS exciting!!Oh to be little and carefree.. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Elizabeth, You're right. I'm going to dig into editing right now and LET IT GO!!!

DebraLSchubert said...

Julie, You're right - that was a big 'ole bowl full of crazy you went through. I'm letting the clock ticking get to me, which is silly. Move forward - that's always the answer. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Alan, Phone booth? I'm sorry. What's a phone booth? Kidding. I actually saw one by the side of a highway recently and thought, whoa - that is like so totally old school! You're welcome over here anytime, my friend, and exercising? Great concept. I'm heading to the club today. ;-)

Steph Damore said...

To add to the other suggestions, I clean out my closet (literally); paint the kitchen and living room; wash the floors, scrub the bathtub and clean the kitchen sink; quilt; read; and workout.

Good luck and I hope you hear good news soon!

DebraLSchubert said...

Steph, Could you come over to my house the next time you're "waiting." PLEASE???

Victoria said...

1. Check email obsessively.
2. Bake.
3. Exercise.
4. Work on something new! <--this one is actually a productive, and GOOD idea, because sooner or later you'll need something new. I wrote Near Witch while my first book was on sub.

Jo said...

I just blogged about this very same thing.
I have a manuscript out on submission with my agent right now. It hasn't been long, I could be bugging him (but I'm not), I'm very politely leaving him alone to get on with it and driving my husband crazy with my insecurity, and most of all, I immediately started working on something new. I would be much more insane without someplace to direct all of my nervous energy.

DebraLSchubert said...

Victoria, Good for you! I'm all about writing something new, but first I need to do a little more editing on my most recent ms. It's all good, though. When you're concentrating on your work, all is well in the world. (Excuse me while I go check my email.)

DebraLSchubert said...

Jo, Our poor husbands. They really do get the brunt of our insecurities, don't they? Fortunately, it's easy enough to "pay them back." ;-)

Karen Walker said...

Debra, I am so keeping my fingers crossed for you. We have similar DNA. Mine's from Queens, NY. Hate hate hate waiting. I am so impatient. But I've learned to shift my energy and attention to other things. That's all I can suggest, because it is impossible not to be emotionally attached to the outcome. Try telling yourself, if not this, than something better!
Blessings,
karen

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I check my email at least 5 times an hour. I bake. I play many many games of Free Cell. I pace the house while muttering darkly.

Elspeth

Paul said...

My agent just submitted my YA novel yesterday. So, yes, I'm waiting. I'm planning to continue writing. That's what I did, with varying amounts of success, through the query process. Sometimes small bursts of writing interspersed with exercise helpled me thru my last waiting time. We'll see what happens this time. And breathing, taking deep, conscious breaths helps me.

Sharon Mayhew said...

I'm not checking my email...I'm not checking my email...ummm...I'm not checkin me email. Well... maybe I will, it's been a good ten minutes since I last checked. :)

Sharon Mayhew said...

The mom said she reserved connecting rooms for the sleep over. It's during the week, so it won't be very busy (here in rural Iowa). The kids will have the pool, and game room to play in. The mom doesn't have to worry about cleaning house before or after the party. I think it's a brilliant idea.


BTW...I'm not checking my email. :)

DebraLSchubert said...

Karen, My mom grew up in Queens and I lived there for a while when I was little. It's all the same. New Yorker's are much nicer than we get credit for, but patience? Nope. Not in the DNA. Thanks for you kind wishes. Everything will be as it's meant to be. I just need to do my yoga breathing. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Elspeth, In other words, you "get it." Thanks. ;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Paul, Best of luck w/your submission! That's got to be a real nail biting time. Hopefully, I'll find out soon enough. ;-))

Caroline Starr Rose said...

This is why my tagline reads: on writing, reading, and waiting.

Someitmes I think I've played some cruel joke on myself, getting into writing. I am not especially patient, but I'm forced to wait for the next step all the time.

And I love Tom Petty's Runnin' Down a Dream and Learning to Fly as writing metaphors. His music is too fun.

DebraLSchubert said...

Caroline, Love your tag line! And the guitar solo by Mike Campbell at the end of Runnin' Down a Dream is one of my favorites of all time!!!

Kelly H-Y said...

Ughh ... waiting ... you feel completely powerless! I work on other manuscripts while I'm waiting!

Steph Damore said...

Jo & Debra - that's too funny Re: insecurities. Just tonight my husband said, "What's wrong?" and then I looked at him and sighed, "nothing." He said, "This is a another writing thing. Isn't it?"

See, yet another reason why I married this man - he's so smart.

DebraLSchubert said...

Kelly, Yup, keep plugging on w/the writing. That's the solution to many of my woes. ("Woes" - it was fun using that word!)

DebraLSchubert said...

Steph, Our guys put up w/a lot, and thank goodness they do!!!

Kelly said...

I check email many times a day, but other than that I just live my day (between checking the email again and again that is).

DebraLSchubert said...

Kelly, You're a smart girl who loves great music. No wonder we get along. ;-)

Lisa Dez said...

No question waiting bites. I'm in the editor cycle at the moment and my agent is fabulous about keeping me in the loop--but still the last three weeks have felt like a lifetime.

I write when my characters have something to say, and when they don't, I read. What I've found to be a universal truth is the more I stress about hearing something, the longer it takes. When I finally give up obsessing about it, that's when things start to happen.

DebraLSchubert said...

Lisa, "What I've found to be a universal truth is the more I stress about hearing something, the longer it takes. When I finally give up obsessing about it, that's when things start to happen."

How true. Giving up obsessing is the key. Distractions, usually in the form of writing, work best. The torture of writers isn't in the writing (usually). It's the waiting - the area that's out of our control.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Sometimes I think the majority of my life can be described by that one word - waiting.

DebraLSchubert said...

Angie, I hope you know my deep love and good wishes are always with you, my friend. You are a southern angel.

WendyCinNYC said...

I work on another project, but that doesn't make the waiting any easier. At all.

The best thing is to step away from the computer.

DebraLSchubert said...

Wendy, Step away from the computer? What? Have you been drinking again...?

Jill Kemerer said...

Waiting is a nightmare. I have to pretend I'm not waiting for something. I completely put it out of my mind, and if it sneaks back in, I show it the door. It's hard!!

I LOVE Olive Garden!

DebraLSchubert said...

Jill, Ha! Show it the door. I love it. And, btw, I just got back from Olive Garden. Again. ;-)

Suzyhayze said...

Gosh. The only thing keeping me from throwing myself out the window is that fact that at that point I'M SURE I'LL NEVER KNOW! Yes or no people YES OR NO??? PUHleahesssssss.

DebraLSchubert said...

Suzy, HA! PLEASE don't throw yourself out a window!!!! You're close, I can feel it. Hang in there! ;-)

Glynis said...

I cook and clean, a miracle in itself, LOL.
I cover the clock, avoid the diary, anything but focus on the event.

DebraLSchubert said...

Glynis, Cooking and cleaning are indeed miracles! Focus, focus, focus - the three keys to success!!!

Devon Ellington said...

In order to make a living writing, I'm usually juggling a half a dozen projects. I finish one, send it off, keep going while I wait to hear back.

As far as I'm concerned, once it's out there, it's out there. I've done what I can do to prepare it for the world; those out there will respond as they respond. I don't control it.

I do always, for pre-unconctracted work, make my submission list ahead of time, so if something comes back, it goes right back out.

I'd rather transform waiting energy into writing energy, taking what I learned from the project just sent out and applying it as I move forward.

Indigo said...

You have Brooklyn DNA, cool. I had an author friend tell me when I first started writing, "You're going to learn to have patience."

I have "0" patience. I can't stand waiting in line and most times won't. But forewarned is forewarned.

As for how I get through the doubts, worries and the horrid wait otherwise known as patience; I keep writing. It can't hurt. The more you write the more fluid and easily it becomes. Sooner or later you're bound to hit the nail on the head, right?

As for reading. I think reader's make better authors. I know since I've been writing, I constantly study what I'm writing. After all it worked to get them published. (Hugs)Indigo

kanishk said...

I'm not a fan of waiting either. It's so HARD!!!


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