Often, writers chat about The Art of Waiting (Waiting, not Writing). Only we don't call it that. We call it, "Why the hell isn't that editor/ agent/publisher/whoever getting back to me?" Or, "It's been X days/weeks/months, so he/she/they must hate my essay/poem/ manuscript/idea."
Sometimes, the fine Art of Waiting sounds like "F*#k it, I give up."
We have better days, when we act like artists and sensitive souls and try to convince our skeptical selves that all is well.
My father used to say (before cheap long distance, cell phones, and 24-hour news): No news is good news. If he didn't hear from a child who was traveling, on a date, or away at college, he'd assume no planes crashed, the young man was behaving, and no one was flunking out.
I'm rarely that Zen, so I typically wait with nerves jangling, the "dead in a ditch" tape on continuous loop in my head until my kid texts me back.
As a writer, I've learned to wait. And not assume the worst. Usually. Until I decide—based on nothing but a quiet email inbox—that my work, or I, have been found wanting, or forgotten. But then I have an extra busy day myself, notice that I haven't even replied to a text from a close friend, and decide that perhaps the news I'm waiting for is being handled by a similarly busy person. Or that the wait is taking precisely as long as it has should. Still, I worry as I wait.
This past spring, I had to wait for some of the most important news of my writing life, and as the calendar plodded on, I noticed a call for submission on the theme of "Waiting and Motherhood." There's nothing better for a writer who's waiting than to stay busy…writing.
What came to the page—titled, "From Boys to Men," in the lovely online magazine Motherwell—is an essay I love. It traces the most critical wait of a mother's life: those twenty-ish years while we wait to see if our handiwork yields the desired result: a mature (okay, mostly mature) adult child that, unlike the first pancake, turns out just fine. Great, in fact.
I love writing essays in the second person, which is what I did here; the prose seemed to materialize on the page that way and the POV seemed right from the start. I thought it might be interesting reading at this time of year, as so many parents are sending their almost grown children off to college, again or for the first time.
Here’s an excerpt:
"… First, you wait to conceive, wait for the fertility tests to reveal what flaws and whose, wait for the drugs to work, wait for that positive pregnancy test. You try to, but can’t describe the fearful waiting through a high risk pregnancy, the anxious waiting of prenatal testing, the watchful waiting for boy number one to blossom. Wait for the right time to have the second baby, wait after the miscarriage to try again, wait for that strangle-throated boy number two to leave the NICU.Wait. Hope. Pray. Wait.Two years later, you wait…"
You can read the whole (shortish) essay at Motherwell. And if you're inclined, you might share it from that page, as a few thousand folks already have. (This has NO affect on my bank account; it's just a nice thing to do if you think it's worthy, and I know the editors would love it. You can also check out the rest of the Motherhood and Waiting series.).
Meanwhile, if you are waiting for something—acceptances, something to get published, an agent requesting pages, a publisher offering a contract, admission into a writing workshop—I hope you are able to borrow Dad's advice.
And maybe, write something else?