As a teenager, I was involved in an organization called Job’s Daughters (three cheers if you know what it is). One of the morals taught by this organization was – and still is – “Patience is a virtue for which we should all strive.” It was a hard lesson to learn as a teenager. It hasn’t gotten easier as an adult.
I’m a “live in the moment” kind of gal. I want to accomplish things, but I want the results NOW. I’m not a good baker because I constantly want to crack the oven door and see how things are progressing. I love knitting and crocheting, but I’m impatient to finish the project and see how it turned out. And I get in a hurry as a writer to finish a book because I want to get to the ending.
The absolute worst part of the writing process, for me at least, is the waiting for responses from editors and agents. Tell me no, tell me yes (preferably yes), but don’t leave me hanging for months at a time before you tell me something. It makes me crazy to have to sit and wait for answers. But I’ve been doing this long enough now that I understand there is often nothing but waiting that can be done.
Snippet of a conversation from a recent book signing I did:
Lady: I sent a story to a publisher quite some time ago and I haven’t heard anything back yet.
Me: What are you working on while you’re waiting to hear back on the story?
Lady: Working on? I just finished the one book. I should get an answer soon, right?
Me: Where did you send the story?
Lady: Big Name New York Publisher (I’ve actually forgotten which one she named).
Me: And how long ago did you send it?
Lady: Three weeks (exasperated sigh). I should be hearing soon, right?
Me: (stifling a giggle). Um. Well, what else can you be working on while you wait?
Lady: I just want to sell this book, then I’ll worry about writing another.
Me: Most of the large publishers take from three to six months before you hear anything. I know a few that can take up to a year if you submitted to their slush pile.
Lady: Six months? (outraged sigh) That’s ridiculous. Why would it take that long to read a kids book?
NOTE: It was clear this lady didn’t know much about the publishing world. It was also clear that I could have messed with her, but I did the nice thing instead. I gave her the web address for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and also to the Institute of Children’s Literature.
Learning to be patient is an ongoing lesson for me. I struggle not to call the agent who has my manuscript. I struggle not to email or Facebook or pester the agent incessantly because I want an answer. But I don’t do it. Instead, I keep working on stories that need attention. I keep reading newsletters and talking to my friends who are writers. I keep looking forward to conferences or workshops I want to attend. I fill the waiting time with productivity on other writing projects so that I don’t fret over the desire to have an answer before someone is ready to give it to me.
But I do allow myself to check my email three or four times a day – just in case.