Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Waiting – a user’s guide
Everyone who has ever written something and asked another person to read it – whether it be husband, friend, agent or publisher – knows that the worst thing about writing is not the lardy bum from too much sitting, or the neck and back ache. It’s not even the writer’s block.
It’s the waiting.
Writerly waiting is a whole other ballgame from waiting, say, in a bank queue, or for the gas engineer who said he’d be there between 8am and 6pm and it’s now 10pm. I’m not saying these irritations aren’t enough in themselves to make you want to claw your own eyes out if you’re naturally impatient, as I am.
But when you’re waiting in a bus queue, your only concern is that your time is being wasted. When you’re waiting to hear an important decision about your writing, your entire ego and self worth are being suspended by gossamer threads over a tank of sharks. You might say I’m exaggerating here. I say, you haven’t met me and are therefore not aware of the fragility of my ego and ludicrous emptiness of my self worth tank.
I’ve just handed in my revised manuscript to the editor who, astonishingly, wants to publish it. I’ve gone through many agonising waits over the last seven years, including with two other books, although never before at this level. Having been turned from a fairly good natured sort of woman into a snarling hag by the process in the past, I know something needs to be done this time. I’m not expecting the verdict to come quickly and am therefore determined not to go insane. Here then, is my cut out and keep guide on How to Wait.
1. Go offline. Maybe, like me, you have tried to limit the number of times you check your email in a day. Some people even disconnect their cable or disable their broadband in order to stop the temptation. This is nowhere near enough.
You actually have to put your PC in the car, along with all laptops [even if they belong to your partner or children] and drive them to a remote Scottish island. If you already live on a remote Scottish island, you must drive to Land's End.
Then you have to leave them there for a month. My job requires me to use my computer but penury is the price that must be paid for sanity.
2. Go out of the house as much as possible. You’ve probably spent too many hours hunched over a keyboard drinking coffee and occasionally laughing out loud at your own jokes. Go look at some scenery or visit that exhibition you read about. Just make sure you avoid internet cafes on the way.
3. Enter a state of denial. Every time your brain swerves towards the question, ‘I wonder if she’s read it yet..’ put up a mental STOP sign. Do not allow the thought to take root because it’s just a short hop from there to getting in the car and reclaiming your computer.
4. Try and remember what it was you thought about before you were a writer. [No, me neither]
5. Make notes for a new project. Buy a very pleasing notebook and start to sketch out what shape the story might take. Before you know it, you will have the basis for a book.*
So there you have it. How to wait in five easy steps. Now I must dash because I have a long car journey ahead of me...
*This tip actually works.