Learning to wait

You’d think that, eight years into the world of parenting, I’d have patience.

I don’t.

I spend a lot of my time waiting.  I wait for kids to come to the table to eat, I wait for them pick up their things, I wait for them to come home from school.  Oh, I don’t sit and stare blankly at a wall during those times.  I fill those moments with things like badgering them to get it done, checking my email, writing, or throwing a few dishes into the sink.  But I’m still waiting.  Time is never my own.

You’d think I’d have learned by now how to do it better, embracing the process much like zen masters advise us to embrace the moment we are in, rather than rushing to the next step.

Zen masters, apparently, don’t have bus schedules.  Or deadlines.

The publishing world is much like the parenting world.  Writers wait for responses to manuscripts just as moms wait for three year olds to put on their shoes at a pace smiliar to the growth of grass.  Writers are always waiting.  We wait for critique partners to respond to our new work.  We wait for agents to respond to queries.  We wait for editors to respond to agents.  We wait for books to go into production.  We wait for books to reach the store shelves.

And while we wait, we work on new manuscripts, and depending on the genre and how quickly the work is done, we then start the process of waiting some more.

The waiting never goes away or gets easier.  And, unfortunately, you can’t threaten editors with time-outs if they don’t hurry up.

I’m trying to learn patience.  I practice mindful breathing and try to see the unique beauty in the steps that unfold under my feet, be it Joanna struggling into her coat and refusing help, or working on a new story and trying to ignore the mail’s impending arrival.  I have a list of work under submission and know when responses should come — it’s posted next to my computer, and I can’t help but glance at it every once in a while as I type (mindfully breathing). Just as I relax and let Joanna succeed in her own time — and when she does, oh, the spark of joy on so many levels for us both — I do my best to sit down, get to work, and know that answers will come when they do. 

Being proactive is good.  So is being productive.   And it’s okay to recognize that kids do need to get to bed on time and finish their homework and learn how to not miss the bus — it’s impossible to pretend that one can be entirely loose about schedules and deadlines and real world responsibilities.  So waiting happens.  

But, maybe, in the waiting are those moments when, if we remember to look, we can see the tiny sparks of joy that are always around us.  And, maybe, those sparks are just as defining, satisfying, as is the moment when the wait is over and the preschooler has zipped up her coat or the editor sends a contract.

Maybe it’s not that we need patience.  What we might need instead is awareness.

But deep breathing helps.

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9 thoughts on “Learning to wait

  1. I’m starting to believe that the longer you wait, the more insane you become. Once you’re completely crazy, you don’t even notice the waiting anymore because you’re too busy painting the walls with toothpaste. Or maybe that’s just my experience… 🙂

  2. It’s odd. With many things I can be very patient. But with others? Not so much. One of those others is waiting for word on mss. You’d think I was a novice. 🙂 Yes, sometimes working on other projects helps. And sometimes I can’t get it off my mind.

    You’re right, though—deep breathing helps.

  3. What a wonderful post! I’m not the best at waiting even though I keep reminding myself that things have been going relatively fast for me and I should be grateful for what I have.

    That said, there is something about enjoying the anticipation…

  4. The waiting is hard – excruciating, sometimes. For me, the key is to keep working while I wait – whether that’s first-drafting, revising, whatever. Plus, I remind myself that “no news is simply no news”, so my mind doesn’t start trying to convince me of the worst! 😉

    Enjoyed your post… thanks!

    • I find it hard to remind myself that no news is no news…I spend too much time trying to decipher what the silence really means. Consideration? A manuscript lost in space? A manuscript so bad it was burned to erase its very existence?

      Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

  5. jenn – great post. Waiting is so hard, isn’t it? But I read somewhere (Stephen King, maybe?) that the time a writer spends writing before the first book is published is the best writing time of her life. I don’t know WHY he said that, but I think I understand it a little when my 10-year old complains about wanting to be grown up and I assure him he is at the most magical time of his life…
    Do you see what I mean?
    Of course, with my novel out on sub, listening to Mr. King’s or anyone’s advice is darn difficult. Hang in there!
    Waiting With Ants in my Pants,
    Nikki

  6. Waiting is the hardest thing to do. Good news or bad news we want it NOW! Instant gratification is the cry of the cyber space generation.

    I need to remember that I don’t control time or anything else. I need to remind myself to slow down. To look at where my feet are. To see all the gifts that I have been given.

    When I finish a project to the best of my ability I am proud of my work. Others may like it or not. I can’t control them. I can only do the best I know how to do. I need to keep an open mind and be accepting of learning new things.

    Waiting for the mail is a waste of time better used to do something for myself. I don’t keep a list of completed projects pinned to my wall. I keep it in the desk and look at it once a week.

    So keep doing what your doing in your writing and in your parenting. Your right where you should be.

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