Publishing is all about the waiting. You wait for the words to flow. (They tend to flow best when you’re driving, when your parents are talking to you on the phone, when you’re at work, or when a kid is demanding that you come and examine what he has built from Legos.)
You wait for responses from agents or small publishers on your queries. Sometimes this wait is minutes, more often weeks, but sometimes it takes much, much longer. No joke, I got a rejection in May 2015 for a query I sent in January of 2014. I had high hopes for that one, too.
If you’re lucky enough to be agented, you wait for responses from editors and updates from your agent, who is swamped and busy and trying to carve out approximately fifteen minutes of personal life per week, but is still probably 2000 queries behind.
If you get a book deal, you wait for the cover, for the blurb, for the new title, for the publication date, for the readers to find you. Then you wait to find out if you have another book deal.
It goes on and on. I’m both terrible at waiting and great at it. On the days when I show a real talent for waiting, I’m Zen. No eastern philosopher can spout more platitudes than I can on those days. I read—both published books and my friends’ manuscripts. I scroll through Twitter. I play touch football and go hiking. I cook and I enjoy it. I even examine the Lego creations with real non-faked interest.
During those days, the Zen days, I’m a delightful companion. I’m fun Mom. I’m loving Wife. I can say heartfelt supportive things to my fellow residents of Waitingville. I can write long stretches of my work in progress and read them and think they are wonderful.
It’s the other days that are not so good. The ones where I. Can’t. Stand. It. Another. Minute. The ones where I feel like storming the castle and demanding answers, in shouty caps with lots of exclamation points. Those days my kids know that I’ll let them watch way too much TV. My husband, with whom I go for a walk every evening, decides to go for a solo run instead. I eat too much and none of it is healthy. My online friends manufacture all kinds of refreshing outings in dark caves with no internet after they’ve tried fruitlessly to remind me that I signed on for this, that I knew what I was getting into when I first decided to pursue traditional publishing.
Fortunately for me, the Zen days outnumber the Not-Zen days. Just know, though, that when you have the Not-Zen day—and you will, if you’re trying to be published—you’re hardly alone.