Waiting and the Writing Life
I freely admit that I am not a patient person. And while the expression “good things come to those who wait”
is commonplace, learning to wait is not easy. At least not for me.
It seems to me that much of the writing life involves waiting. And for some of us who tend to be a little
impatient, waiting is always a challenge. There is the obvious waiting that takes place when you have released
a manuscript to the world and are waiting for a response from journals and editors and readers and
publishers. Then there is a second kind of waiting, when you are waiting for print copies to be delivered and
anticipating the exciting moment when you can actually see or hold the finished product. But there is also a
third kind of waiting involved in the writing life, and that has to do with the writing itself.
We live in an impatient world. We expect immediate responses to our emails and texts. We do quick online
information searches for everything. Voice-activated technology is everywhere. We use our phones as
cameras and GPS units. By contrast, good writing is rarely the result of this kind of immediacy. My first
novel took me ten years to research, write and edit. (Admittedly this was as a part-time writer with a full-time
job.) It took me another two years to find a publisher. And then it took a further two years to wait for the
galleys and printing process and cover design to unfold. That’s a whole lot of waiting.
Many people assume that I took up writing as a hobby. What they don’t realize is that I have been writing
with intent since I was a child. I fell in love with audiences and story-telling very early in my school career and
was encouraged to write by some exceptional educators. I took courses, read books, and actively studied the
writing process for much of my life. I belonged to writing groups, went on writing retreats, journaled, and
practiced writing constantly. I remember taking tennis lessons as a young adult. I had a cute outfit (very
important), an expensive racket, ankle socks with sweet little pom-poms, and was excited about becoming a
tennis player. I wasn’t, however, kinaesthetically blessed and flailed around the court like a windmill to the
despair of my instructors. After a couple of years of both group and private lessons, I realized that in order to
be a good player, I would need to commit to hours of practice and playing time. And I just didn’t want to
make that commitment. I knew that it would take away from my truest passion, which was writing. And while
I would never tell anyone that they could not excel in more than one thing, I knew that for me, the intense
study and practice required would take away from what time I was able to give to writing as I began to focus
also on the necessities and demands of work. I was impatient even then, and wanted as much writing time as
Social media does not necessarily help me with patience. When friends and colleagues post news about
upcoming publications and book launches, I rejoice for them –really I do — but wince a little when I think
about the latest series of rejection letters received. It’s hard to wait when you see evidence of other people
meeting with success. I remember walking into a large bookstore once, surveying the tens of thousands of
books that filled the shelves, and I said to myself, if all of these people can get a book published, so can I!
Later on, it became such a thrill to walk into a bookstore to find my own books on the shelves. But it didn’t
I’ve had to learn to be patient with my writing and with all aspects of the writing life. It’s time-consuming to
fact-check and do in-depth research. It’s tedious work to revise and edit multiple drafts. It takes time to
develop a rich manuscript with carefully crafted characters. And these things shouldn’t be rushed. I want to
be able to enjoy and engage in the work itself and to love the process as much as the final product. I often
have to wait for a scene to unfold or for a character’s voice to be heard. And it takes time to build a
publication record. It takes time to find a network of people who will support the work in constructive and
positive ways. And all of these things require both persistence and waiting. It’s not simply enough to
complete a manuscript; I seek out opportunities to improve it, and then to market it.
The writing life requires a commitment to the writing itself and much of that commitment will involve waiting
of one sort or another. But it is a wonderful and infinitely fascinating way to live. Opportunities and
challenges abound everywhere. Stories and characters and voices are all around – just waiting to be well
told. And good things will happen, for those who learn to wait.
I hope this is helpful to your writing. Please let me know!