You did it! You wrote something pretty cool. You felt confident enough about it that you decided to submit it somewhere – a magazine or an agent or to a writing contest, something that can’t offer you instant feedback or results. You’re so, so excited – as you should be! And then you realize you aren’t in control of your baby anymore. You have to wait to find out what’s going to happen to it next, if anything at all.
This, if you haven’t gotten to this point yet, is the hardest part. Writing can be difficult at times. But it’s the waiting, waiting for other people to decide whether or not it’s good enough to be exposed to the world, that makes the life of a writer so, so stressful. Writers want to be in control of their work. That’s why they’re writers. Never having put your work into someone else’s hands before, this can be a new, and very tough to handle, experience.
Here’s how to survive the ‘Waiting Games.’
Send off and move on to something else
When you apply for jobs, you typically apply for one, then sit around for 2+ weeks waiting for a response before looking for other jobs. Right? Nope. You apply to one, then dozens more while you’re waiting. It’s the same idea when submitting creative writing and other work. Just because you submit one thing doesn’t mean you stop and wait for someone to respond. You keep going.
One advantage of having multiple writing projects going on at once is that, once you finish and submit something, you aren’t just left hanging with nothing to do. You have other things to focus on. It’s a productive way to fill up the time you would otherwise be spending checking your email every five minutes for someone to get back to you (if they ever do …. sigh!).
Try to look at things from an editor’s perspective
Submitting a piece of writing is exciting. We all want that instant gratification, that same-day “How amazing is this??” response. You have to look at things from the other side. There’s a person on the other end of that submit button. And they aren’t your personal assistant, waiting for your work to come in so they can review it right away.
Your submission isn’t the only thing they’re working on right now. You have to get it into your head that you’re one of many. That doesn’t mean your work doesn’t matter. It means that you have to respect a professional’s time and decision-making process. It isn’t about your timing. Waiting is hard. They know that. But think about how you might feel if you had to go through hundreds of emails daily. It’s going to take some time.
Don’t worry about when/how you should ‘check in’
A lot of writers spend a lot of energy worrying about how long they should wait before contacting someone a second time, and how they should go about it. Here’s the real deal: you don’t have to worry about that at all … because contacting someone a second time, asking them if they have received your submission, is something you just should not do, ever.
If they like your work, they will get back to you. If they don’t, they will either get back to you or they won’t. The timing of these responses, or lack thereof, is completely dependent upon the other work they have to take care of. Sitting down and reviewing submissions isn’t their only job. Contacting them again just adds to the queue of tasks they have to complete. Just let what will happen, happen. This only applies to an initial submission, by the way. If you’re waiting on someone to get back to you who you have already corresponded back and forth with, communication is essential.
Waiting is hard. But it’s something you automatically sign up for when you decide you want to be a writer. Your work is important, but it isn’t the only work out there. Submissions and reviews and acceptances and rejections take time. You have to learn to deal with it. You have to accept that you’re taking a chance, and whether it works out or not, things sometimes take awhile to fall into place.
May the plots be ever in your favor.
Image courtesy of The Hunger Games.