The anxiety of waiting

If you’re a writer, you’ve felt it before: the creepy crawly feeling up the back of your arms, the burning racing feeling inside your chest, the tingly feeling in your fingers and toes. No, it’s not a crazy heartburn: it’s the anxiety of waiting. Most people  have spent some of their time waiting, but for writers (and maybe contestants on The Voice) waiting takes on a new meaning. It’s not just an impatience, it’s also a dreadful scary feeling wrapped in a blanket of curious insecurity. Writers are constantly asking ourselves worrisome questions like:

  1. What if I’m rejected?
  2. What if I’ve ruined my own chances? 
  3. What if I have to start over?
  4. What if I never hear anything?
  5. What if I’m accepted? (Believe it or not, it’s just as nerve-wracking to think about being accepted as it is to think about being rejected.  Because when you’re accepted, there’s a lot more anxiety waiting on the horizon: will it sell? will I have to change everything for it to sell? Will I be able to get along with my editor? Will I be able to handle success? Will I continue to be successful?)

I guess I’m feeling all of these things now: I’ve sent my first novel proposal out there for its first considerations. After working on this for 11 years (yes, I had a day job) and now feeling like a 2nd and a 3rd book with these characters also needs to be written, the anxiety of waiting seems more like a rush of manic feelings. Here’s how I process them.

  1. Belief in myself: I remind myself when I’m feeling that dreadful insecurity that I’ve completed a novel! This is a great accomplishment. I remind myself of how long I’ve been writing, and that people have paid me to write other things before. I can do this.
  2. Shifting focus: Anxiety is sometimes an itchy feeling–what do I do in the meantime? For me, now’s the time to work on another project that I couldn’t before. Now’s the time to stop tweaking my manuscript for the 4th or 5th time, and instead get some creative juices flowing.
  3. Talk to others: When I (and a lot of other writers) am working on a project, I retreat, I hide, I close myself off mentally and physically so pure original thought can emerge on paper or screen. Now that the proposal is out there, I can get out there: connect with other writers, agents, people in the industry. Connect with other people in general (those friends I’ve been neglecting so that I can hang out with those imaginary people in my head). Now’s the time to just get back out into the world.
  4. Think about the other side of things: Most writers like to read and to write–and that’s all they like to do. Not many of us like the non-creative parts of getting published: actually selling the book, letting people know about the book, and book deals. Now’s the time to start thinking about the business side of writing: the marketing, the financials, the copyrights and royalties. If you go the traditional route (like I am trying to do), you still have to market yourself and keep pushing your creation. And of course, you need to educate yourself on what you are selling and keeping–publishing rights, royalties, permissions, etc.
  5. Relax! Just like writing the book was a process, so is getting the book published.If you are in that transitional stage of waiting for agents or editors to review your work, why not treat the time like downtime? Read  something you’ve been putting off because you were afraid of adopting a published idea, watch some of the stuff clogging up your DVR memory or your Netflix queue, or meditate and rest your mind. Currently, I’m trying to revive my once-formidable and healthy exercise routine. After all, the next novel is looming on the horizon. Waiting.

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