Clocks tick more slowly when you’re waiting for something. Even digital clocks, which don’t tick at all. Time is a strange and mysterious thing. And as my Midwestern mom used to say, “a watched pot never boils.” She also said my sister was a fart in a hot skillet, but that phrase doesn’t really apply to this situation.
What am I waiting on? Or, for those of you who are grammar sticklers, on what am I waiting? It depends on the day, time, month, year. Sometimes I’m waiting for school to start, or for school to be over, or for my son to get out of school, or for my son to start back to school. A lot of my life revolves around schools. But currently, I’m waiting on three agents to get back to me about my novel.
This kind of waiting is exquisite in its way. When an agent or an editor or a publisher is considering your work, it’s a maybe, not a no. Until you get an answer, hope is alive. You can imagine your work sitting on a pile somewhere, shining beneath a deluge of other lesser writing. You picture the agent picking it up (or opening it up since everything is done on electronic file. I still like to visualize a pile of paper, though. Old paradigms die hard.) You see in your mind’s eye the look of wonder on the reader’s face, the silent admission of your genius, the staggering respect that he or she has for you after reading your amazing work. You picture him or her taking your piece to the other professionals in the office, bragging, saying that this is what they’ve been waiting for! You visualize the phone ringing, you answering, the wonderful, validating conversation that solidifies your credentials and silences your inner critic. “See?” you can say to yourself. “I am good enough!”
Yet not having an answer is excruciating, too. You check your email several times a day, check the cell, check the answering machine. Every time the phone rings, you pick it up, butterflies darting about in your tummy, until you realize it’s yet another carpet cleaning business or a robot asking for money. Back to the questions. Do they like it? Have they gotten to it yet? Have they lost it? Have they forgotten? Or worse, is some other writer more important than you are?
This, of course, makes you crazy. Or at least it makes me crazy, and I fully admit it. I rationalize…I tell myself that agents are busy people, that they don’t usually call at midnight on a Saturday, that they have other clients who are a priority, as I would like to be if I were a client. It’s worse in some ways than waiting on a date to call you back; that’s love, after all, and this is work. This is you. Or me.
Because after all, I am talking about myself, despite my free use of the second person. I don’t really want to admit that this bugs me. I would love to be serene and Buddhist about my writing career. I would love to have the attitude that whatever happens, happens. That it’s all part of plan, that if it doesn’t work out, it just means a window opens elsewhere (where? I fear a rusty fire escape. I’ve got to work on that positive visualization.)
I’m playing the waiting game right now, although after learning many lessons and waiting on many phone calls, I guess I’m handling it better than I did in years past. I’m trying to keep busy, to play with my son and watch his fish tank, to garden, to exercise, to catch up on reading. I’m not writing right now, because I’m honestly tired. I’m trying to look on this is a fallow time, a time to let the creative fields regenerate so more can grow later.
But I still jump when the phone rings.
How do you handle anticipation?