When the language gods sat down at their very expensive polished maple conference table to decide which term to use for the art of putting words together to tell stories, “writing” wasn’t their first choice. “Bloodletting” actually had the most up-votes and was likely to get the nod. But then one of the lesser gods – the one everyone mistakenly called Vern – felt compelled to mention how similar “writing” was to “waiting,” which they’d already determined would mean “excruciatingly long pauses where nothing appeared to be happening.”
While he was publically showing his support for the already-popular idea of eliminating “writing” from contention, he was secretly hoping his observation might be clever enough to gain him a little status among his peers. But when the other gods noticed this similarity, they immediately changed their votes. They’d find another use for “bloodletting.” “Writing” was perfect, because, as the god known as Carl V. Clamphammer said, “Writing and waiting are intimately intertwined.” The other gods cheered and nodded and deemed it a done deal and Vern was hailed as a genius.
All this is true. Except the part about Vern being hailed as a genius. Ask any of the gods today and they’ll universally respond, “Who’s Vern?”
By this point, you’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to get to the point of the blogpost. Oh, I will. Eventually.
But first, let’s talk about bloodletting.
Okay. Fine. I’ll save that for another post.
This one is on…wait for it…
[Taps fingers on table.]
[Stares at clock on wall.]
[Goes online to try to understand Tumblr and find out where the missing “e” went.]
Writing and waiting. Carl V. had it right. If you’re a writer, you’re a waiter. (And yes, you might also be a waiter, but that’s not important, so ignore that six-top and rejoin me here at the point. Oh, and could you bring me some water? With lime, please. Thanks.)
Here are some of the ways a writer waits:
- You wait for the computer to wake up from sleep.
- You wait for inspiration.
- You wait for the children to take a nap so you can wait for inspiration.
- You wait for the Internet to stop offering you pictures of kittens knitting sweaters for their pet sloths.
- You wait for feedback from your beta readers.
- You wait for a response (or non-response) from literary agents.
- You wait for your editor to get back to you with his notes. [Ed: Thanks for your patience.]
- You wait for someone to buy your book.
- You wait for the first five-star review.
- You wait for the first one-star review.
- You wait for someone to respond to the one-star review by telling the reviewer he should probably read the book before reviewing it.
- You wait for writing elves to finish your novel while you sleep.
- You wait for sleep that never comes because you’re worried that the writing elves might steal your idea and give it to James Patterson.
- You wait for phone calls. Emails. Texts. Ideas. Words. Brilliance. Coffee. Wine. Hope.
There’s a lot of waiting in writing. But it doesn’t have to be an “excruciatingly long pause where nothing seems to be happening.” See, you can still write while you’re waiting. You can brainstorm the next book. You can come up with marketing ideas. You can argue with the voices in your head. You can crawl out of your bed and put on sweats and running shoes and pretend like one day of exercise will make up for the dozen donuts you ate yesterday while you were writing.
Waiting is a great time for pondering things. But here’s a tip – be sure to have paper and a pen (or a laptop, or a smart phone) nearby while you’re waiting. That plot problem you were struggling with? The answer will inevitably come to you while you’re waiting in line at the corner deli.
But it’s not like you have to fill every waiting moment with stuff. That’s insane. Please feel free to enjoy an “excruciatingly long pause where nothing seems to be happening” if that’s what you need. Sometimes doing nothing is exactly what you should be doing.
Then, when your nothing time is over, you can get back to waiting. I mean writing. I mean waiting. I mean writing. I mean…
Bloodletting might have been a better choice.
Thanks a lot, Vern.