The Waiting Strain

If you’ve ever had to wait for an important verdict on a writing project, you’ll know how horrible it can be.
I think of it literally as a large waiting room. The walls are painted the colour of despair and there’s much nervous coughing and magazine shuffling. Writerly types are sitting around and pretending to ignore each other, but really everyone is quietly sizing each other up. Every now and then the double doors open and someone important-looking with a clipboard sticks their head out. My turn at last! But no, another name gets called and someone leaves the waiting area, punching the air or weeping, depending on their outcome.
I’ve somehow got myself into a situation where I’m waiting for external verdicts on two separate books from two sources. What I was thinking?
I’d almost forgotten what this corrosive feeling of anticipation feels like. I remember now. It somehow manages to be exhausting and very dull all at once. And does having two projects out there really make the waiting twice as bad? Of course it bleedin’ well does.
I know this process is just as bad for people who’ve already got an agent, or even a book or two out there already. It’s part of writing life, I’m told. So if you’re in the same situation, I’ve devised a simple quiz that will help you judge your ability to cope with the ‘waiting strain’.

1. On a scale of one to ten, how much do you care about the opinion you’re waiting for?
10 points for: ‘How long have you got?’;
5 for: ‘Well, it won’t be the end of the world, but I’ll be disappointed,’
0 for: ‘Oh, that old thing….’

2. How many times a day do you check your emails?
10 points for: ‘Many more times than there are minutes in an hour’
5 points for: ‘About once every one or two hours’
0 for: ‘I only log on once a day’

3. How many times have you mentally practised reactions to both good and bad outcomes?
10 points for: ‘I have to fill the times between checking emails somehow’
5 points for: ‘Only once or twice. Just to prepare myself’
O points for: ‘What the hell are you talking about?’

4. How distracted are you of late?
10 points for: ‘My children have to forage for food and I am wearing my knickers on top of my trousers’
5 points for: ‘It’s on my mind from time to time, but what will be will be.’
0 points for: ‘Why would I be distracted? It’s not like I can’t do anything about it.’

So how did you do? Here’s how to score.
30-40 points: Your ability to cope with this process is worryingly poor. You need to chill out a bit. Really. Or start writing another book.
15- 25 points: You are coping admirably and will no doubt go on to conquer the publishing world.
0-10 points: Do you really want to be published? Sure? Maybe you should check whether you have a pulse first.

I’m not telling you what my score was. Let’s just say, I’m off to check my emails, feed my starving children and put my knickers on the right way round.


Geraldine Ryan said...

Caroline, I think you'll find that we're all off the scale if we are reading this post! The sane ones are out there having a life.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

I love the 'walls painted the colour of despair'. I do wish you all the best with the outcome of your waiting. And try and enjoy the fact that you've got two lots of people interested - how good is that?!?
Fingers crossed,

Lydia said...

That's what I love about this blog : it reassures me there are people out there as unbalanced as I am! We all tell ourselves we're not waiting; of course we're not. We're getting on with the next project(checking emails); ironing( checking emails); tidying out the cupboards(checking emails). Geraldine's right - if we were sane we'd get a life! Best of luck!

Administrator said...

And i wondered why people kept shouting out that i dressed like Superman:)

Fab post, Caroline, i can really relate. It is hideous - like permanent PMT, all that irritability and chocolate-consumption... You haven't found a cure, have you??:)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post! So funny, true and kind of scary.

Anonymous said...

Good luck, Caroline.

From yet another high scoring, insane obsessive.

Caroline Green said...

Thanks for all your comments everyone. I had written most of a blog on something else and then decided just to be honest!

Susie, not sure it's good to have two out there...shows a worrying lack of regard for self preservation!

Anonymous said...

Hee hee, great post! I scored 40 and I'm not even waiting for anything.

Caroline Green said...

LOL Caro!
Now that really is a worry :-)

Gillian McDade said...

It's good to know others check their e-mails obsessively at least three times in five minutes (and that's during working hours!)

BTW the one scenario I really hate is seeing the words 'your submission' in the subject line - eeek.....

Caroline Green said...

Oh God, me too...immediate heart sink moment!

Sometimes I wonder whether paper submissions are better, but that brown envelope slithering through the letterbox with a defeated sound isn;t so nice either, is it?

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

You girls write such great common sense posts for aspiring and sometimes deluded writers like myself! It is good to know that others suffer fallow times too.

Julie P said...

What a great post. I haven't got any books out there - I haven't even written any! But I do have several short stories waiting for rejection at various women's mags and competitions. I like the idea of us all sat round in a waiting room, nervously waiting for our turn. It does feel like that sometimes. It's that sinking feeling in your stomach as the heavy SAE lands on the mat and you know - without moving from your chair- that it's your short story manuscript returned and rejected!

Good look with the two books though. That's an achievement in itself isn't it? I haven't the staying power or the determination to get one book written, let alone two. I take my hat off to you.

Bernadette said...

I have to agree with everyone else. The main reason I haven't got broadband yet is that I'm sure it would make me worse.

Gillian, the worst subject line I ever had was an e-mail entitled 'Congratulations' from a competition organiser... which went on in the body of the e-mail to say 'to all the winners, who have already been notified'. How mean is that?

Caroline Green said...

That's just MEAN, Bernadette, isn't it? Poor you.

Julie P, thank you. Not sure whether it is perseverance or stupidity sometimes though :-)

Phillipa said...

Caroline, I thought it was just me who would score er.. top marks. What a brilliant post and it's good know I'm not alone. Waiting is horrible. 'Dull and exhausting at the same time.' Yep.

Caroline Green said...

Thanks, Phillipa. Does help to know I'm not alone too!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious, Caroline!

Caroline Green said...

Thanks, Rosy!

Was quite cathartic, this :-)