The Waiting Game

I am playing this game.

The rules are simple: wait. Wait some more. Do nothing. Do not pass Go. Do not make phone calls. Do not check email obsessively. Set deadlines by which you will stop waiting and then watch them pass. That’s the game, but it’s harder than it sounds.

I must have always realised being a writer involved having to wait a lot, but somehow I was entirely unprepared for it all the same. Perhaps because with my first tentative submissions replies came fast, several nos and a request for a full within two weeks.

But then came a great wide ocean of waiting. Weeks. Months. That’s how I first learned to play. In French, I was patienting. I am trying hard to patient myself.

As a child waiting seemed interminable. Passive, all you can do is wait for parents to pick you up or the school bus to come or Christmas to arrive or a journey to end. There’s a reason children ask if they’re nearly there yet, because they don’t have much control over it. As an adult I try to remember that however far off a date seems, it will come like a train on the tracks (not the trains I get, obviously, they never come) and one day you’ll be looking back on it out the window as it passes. I wait more patiently now for Christmas, late trains, exciting events. In fact I spend so much time waiting on, near, or in late trains that I try to practice a little Zen-like stoicism. After all, it won’t come any faster no matter what you do – it’s like being a child again. Often I fail though, and end up muttering and cursing like a madwoman.

So how can I distract myself as I wait again? I could have some kind of personal crisis or fall in love, although overall this might be counter-productive to my writing. I could travel or take up a hobby or move house (wait, I’m doing that). Or I could just write. That’s the same as falling in love and travelling anyway, though with less need for vaccines and broken hearts. And when the waiting’s up, it’s always good to be able to say, if you like THAT book, here’s one (or two or three) I wrote earlier. So back to the notepad for me!

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