Waiting is hard. Patience is harder. I can’t count the number of text messages I’ve exchanged — or the number of stories I’ve heard — about the crazy, obsessive behavior that writers engage in while waiting. This includes: refreshing our inboxes every five minutes, Twitter-stalking potential agents or editors, and doing a hard-core deep analysis of hits to our websites. (Not that I have personally done any of these things. No, not at all. )
Sound familiar? This is the exact same behavior I engaged in during high school and beyond, while I was waiting for a phone call from a boy, responses from college applications, or results of final exams. In fact, just the other day, one of my writer friends whose manuscript is on submission wailed to me, “This is worse than waiting for a boy!” I had to laugh because this statement highlights just how similar the two processes are.
So, why is waiting so hard? I think it comes down to a couple of things: 1) Because we want it SO BADLY, where “it” can be anything from that boy to a college acceptance to a book contract; and 2) because we have no control over when — or if — this thing we want will ever happen.
A few years ago, I was bemoaning my publishing fate to an editor friend. I was on submission to agents with my second manuscript, I had received over a hundred rejections, and I had been working seriously on my craft for years. It felt like I was never going to achieve my dream — that elusive book contract — and I was all out of patience.
“I wish I had a crystal ball,” my friend said. “Then I could tell you that five years from now, you would be published, and you wouldn’t waste so much time worrying about it.”*
This quote became the inspiration for my next book. A few days later, during a hazy afternoon nap with my toddler son, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could send a memory back to my younger self, so that I could see that I was a successful published author and that all my hard work and heartache was worth it?” My very next thought was: “Hey! That would make a cool premise for a book!” And presto, Forget Tomorrow was born.
And yet, as I was writing Forget Tomorrow, it become obvious that knowing the future didn’t solve Callie and her friends’ problem of waiting. In fact, it created new issues, new anxieties, new heartaches. In other words, they just ended up waiting for different things. The only way to make the waiting tolerable, Callie learns, is to live for the present and focus on the things she can control.
This was such a key insight, for Callie and for me, and you would think that discovering it would make me an expert on waiting.
Nope, not at all. Waiting is still hard. Except now, I have a mantra to help me control the obsessive behaviors and get me through the agony:
Live for today. Focus on the things I can control.
These words don’t eliminate the problem altogether, but they do make the process easier.
What do you think? What crazy, obsessive behaviors do you engage in while waiting? What tips do you have to endure waiting?
I can’t WAIT for your answers!
* Incidentally, this quote is also the inspiration for “Crystal Ball,” the song that Grammy-nominated songwriter David Elliot Johnson and Kimberly Bell wrote for FORGET TOMORROW. This will be one of the first released songs from Entangled Music, and it is absolutely stunning. If you haven’t heard it yet, you can check out a sample here:
About Forget Tomorrow:
Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided…by your future self.
It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.
Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.
In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.
But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all—Callie, herself.