Advice on the Agony of Waiting

Something that I wasn’t fully prepared for when I decided to pursue a life as a fiction writer, was the amount of waiting I’d be forced to endure. Waiting for responses from agents, waiting for responses from journals, waiting for decisions in competitions. And I’m Irish, so patience comes naturally to me: we are the world champions at queuing. But on average, it takes about twelve weeks before a response to a submission of any kind is to be expected. That’s a long time to be anticipating, wondering, hoping. Because as a writer, you must always be hoping. And often, when the deadline for a response passes? There is still nothing, and then you must start nudging, and then recommence the waiting… And I’ve heard that the waiting doesn’t end when you get an agent or a publisher. There is still more to come.

Writing is hard. Honing my craft, applying my craft, coping with rejection, maintaining a writing habit, combating the paralysing fear of failure; all of those things have been hard. And yet the hardest thing of all is the waiting. It is inertia. It slows time. It creates a sense of powerlessness which inhibits my writing because it makes me question the very point in it all. A lack of response, good, bad or indifferent, is worse than a rejection. It makes you feel as though you, and your writing, are invisible. That even bothering to read it in order to issue a generic ‘this isn’t for us’ email is more than you deserve. And when you toil all day in an office with only the people generated by your own imagination for company, and without flesh and blood colleagues to confirm your existence, it can lead to a certain questioning of your very being.

The post is entitled ‘Advice on the agony of waiting.’ So I’d better sprinkle in some advice. Here it is: the only way that I’ve found to deal with it, is to give myself more stuff to wait for! I know, I know. It sounds counter-intuitive, but why wait for one person to respond to you when you can be waiting for many? The waiting may as well be worthwhile. The only way out of limbo, is to keep moving. Keep moving, keep working, keep progressing.

There is a school of thought amongst the writing elite that if you don’t get 100 rejection letters per annum, you aren’t sending your work out into the world frequently enough. Even a rejection letter is useful, because it may indicate something about the piece itself, your submission strategy, or both. So even a rejection, though it may sting, is worth something. And the sting of rejection lessens with each one, so bring on the rejections, I say! More submissions = more rejections= brief moment of pain and indignance followed by learning = thicker skinned and ready to get better.

I’m being proactive; being dynamic despite my desire to simply sleep through the waiting like a hibernating bear. In the latter part of 2018 and so far in 2019 I have been honing, toning and polishing up my best stories and submitting them to journals, competitions etc. I am aiming for at least 150 submissions this year; and therefore, over the next couple of months, there should be an upswing in interaction from various places.

So go forth, fellow writers, and multiply…your submissions.

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My name is Catherine Day. After practising law for many years, I've decided to take the leap, leave law temporarily, and write the novel I've always wanted to write.

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