It’s amazing what goes through a mind left to wait.

Celia and Helena have been talking non-stop about Grandma and Papa visiting for Thanksgiving and how excited they are for  Christmas. The countdown has begun.

Meanwhile, I’m calculating the number of days I have remaining to finish grading the stacks of student papers and to check off the items on my shopping list. Many of the items on that list, by the way, either haven’t arrived in stores or are already in short supply. The items I have located lie somewhere at the bottom of my closet, at risk of going undiscovered until sometime next year.

At some point, anticipation and nervous excitement (“I can’t wait until Christmas!”) turns to anxiety (“How am I going to get all of this stuff done?!”). Maybe the transition begins when we realize that a) what we’re waiting for ultimately lies on our shoulders, and b) we’re on our own to pick up any broken pieces along the way.

Or maybe waiting means something different when one, or more than one, anticipated moment turns out to be less than expected.

One thing that’s tough in the writing business is the incessant waiting for a response from a reader or an editor–or, as I’m soon to discover, an agent. I understand the feeling of being overwhelmed, of truly, honestly, not-just-procrastinating, really-not-having-a-spare-moment-to-respond-to-an-email-or-phone-call kind of overwhelmed. But when the one I’m waiting for has a sample of my writing, or an idea that traveled straight from my computer to hers, the waiting can be a killer.

That’s when my mind carries me to some deep, dark places.

Clearly, the silence on the other end is a polite way of avoiding the inevitable pain of truth: I can’t write, can’t think, sadly lack a “fresh” and “compelling” voice.

Conversely, my idea/writing/strategic timing is so impressive that the editor has decided to take a risk and skip town, er, further communications with the source (aka me), by stealing my idea and voice and heading for the closest assignment desk.

But then, out of the blue, I’ll get a chipper email telling me that Editor X loves my idea and wants to hear more. How would I flesh it out? Do I have ideas about which department might be a good fit? Could he see some clips of prior publications? Or, I receive a plain white envelope in the mail that informs me, nonchallantly, that I’ve gotten positive reader reviews or won an award.

Like I tell the girls, the secret to all that waiting appears when you least expect it. In other words, when you quit waiting.


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