The Waiting Game

In a culture of instant gratification, being a writer can stretch your patience pretty thin. I don’t know which is worse: getting a rejection within days (or hours) of submitting something or waiting and wondering for weeks (or months).

I’ve submitted to several contests and literary journals in the past year, most of which had deadlines far in the future and notification times even further out. I never got a formal rejection notification for any of the journals, and the only way I knew I hadn’t been accepted was when the list of winners or the issue of the journal itself came out. For example, there’s one anthology I submitted a story to in late summer last year; the deadline was December 31, and the notification deadline is in March. I know for a fact it got more than 600 submissions, and they all have to be read and evaluated. Intellectually, as a former magazine editor, I understand that; emotionally, it’s gut-wrenching.

Then, there’s the manuscript which an agent has been considering (as in, whether to represent it or not) for about six weeks. I came to this agent in a roundabout way–through a workshop instructor, and the agent is looking at the MS as a favor to him. I know he probably has lots on his plate. Again, there’s the dichotomy in the whole head/heart thing, but I’m getting twitchy.

Having several things out at the same time puts me in a turmoil: there are all those chances to wonder if I’m good enough, if my writing is worthy. Every day, I get these inspiring writer quotes on Facebook, and I lap them up, every one. But, I still worry that I’m fooling myself.

I mean, I’m not in it for the money, because, as we all know, the publishing business is in an even worse turmoil than I am. Advances are almost nonexistent, royalties are at best minimal (no wonder people self-publish), and even if you’re lucky enough to get a publishing contract, you still end up having to hawk your work like a bad used-car salesperson. There’s a reason why I never lasted long in retail.

I write because it’s in my nature to do so. It has been since I was in third or fourth grade. I made everything into a story, and, trust me, as brilliant as my story-telling might have been, it doesn’t work when you explain to your mother that strange men came into the house and broke her favorite vase, did nothing else, and left. Yes, a fine line between fiction and lying to cover the fact you picked the stupid vase up when you knew you weren’t supposed to, but, hey, what could go wrong?

As human beings, we live for validation, especially when you lived a childhood where that was not forthcoming because your mother wanted nothing to do with you and your father doled out praise so you’d work harder, get better grades, etc. When I post my Friday Fictioneers or Flash! Friday stories and the comments come in, each one makes me feel good, makes me glad to call myself a writer, gives me validation. However, it’s pretty instant feedback–same day or within a few days, built-in writing community; no waiting.

In the last four years I’ve had three stories published, one about to be published, and one which came in third in a contest. There’s a weekly contest I enter, which I’ve won three times. Some days I marvel at that; others, I think it pretty scant. I’m one of the lucky people who doesn’t let that stop her from writing. Hell, I’m going to write even if my writers group and my family are the only ones who will read what I’ve written.

In the meantime, I’ll wait.