On Productivity During the Waiting Game

3 min read

Carl Jung once said, “Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you.” Look, writers are nuts. We have to be. We absorb everything around us, soak it in, and transpose it onto paper. I suppose in a lot of ways you could say we’re like Spongebob Squarepants.

So, in addition to three novels stewing on the back-burner and an upcoming sequel to my yet-to-be-contracted sci-fi, I currently have two manuscripts, a science fiction novel and a stage play, on submission. One to publish, and the other is one I wrote for a veteran’s contest. It’s been a while since I’ve queried anyone but my current publisher, and it’s interesting how intense the waiting game gets, no matter how much you’re used to it or how many times you’ve done it.

Waiting to hear back on a manuscript from a publisher is a lot like being pregnant in your third trimester. You know the one, when you’re really uncomfortable, antsy, can’t sleep or squat, and you just want it over with and to be able to hold your baby in your arms.

Here’s the deal; as writers, we learn to live with rejection. We have to, because that’s what the majority of publishing is, it’s failing and being rejected again and again, until that one publisher sees merit in your work and knows they can take it places. It’s part of the package. Wash, rinse, and repeat. So, what do we do to relieve the anxiety and tension of waiting?  Almost every single editor/publisher/self-help guru will say, “write your next best thing.” But… what if I’m too knackered?

The day after I finished writing my sci-fi novel in November, I saw an announcement posted that there was a playwriting competition, exclusively for military folk, through an organization that I support. It checked pretty much every box in my creative portfolio; I’ve done a lot of theater in my younger years, read a fair number of plays, even acted in a few, and I also served in the Army. But I had a manuscript hangover and I was completely exhausted. I needed a creative break, so I decided to skip it. My muse had other plans, though, and the next morning at 4:30 I woke up and started writing a play for the first time in my life.

Life’s weird, you guys. But we have to roll with it. If inspiration calls you, jump on it, even if you feel like you’re too tired/overwhelmed/exhausted. When we listen to our instincts, good things happen.

Here are a few things to do when you’re wound up tighter than a cuckoo clock or worried about something. Anxiety gets all of us at some point or another. I think the greatest of all these is just remember you’re human.

  1. Exercise – Exercise relieves tension and releases calming endorphins.
  2. Drink camomile tea – herbal tea has healing properties in it and will relax you.
  3. Meditate – nothing is better than mentally floating and letting yourself become free of worries.
  4. Breathe – A few deep breaths in and out can make all the difference.
  5. Spend time in nature; go walk in the park, the forest, or go for a hike. Smell a flower.
  6. Write it down. Expressing your feelings creatively is cathartic and healthy.