Waiting. It’s an inevitable part of the writing process. Writers do a lot of waiting: on readers to provide feedback, on agents to respond to queries, partials or manuscripts, on editors to respond to agents, and then reviewers, booksellers, and readers again. It’s an inescapable reality. And it can drive a writer crazy. Here’s a few tips for rocking the wait . . . or at least keep your sanity along the way.
1) Set Your Phone/Computer to Notify You About New Emails
This seems counter-intuitive. Isn’t the whole point to not be waiting by your phone/email? Well, yes. But here’s the thing. If you are near your phone or computer, you’re probably going to have a hard time resisting the urge to just check your notifications . . . over and over and over again. We are all familiar with the heart-stop feeling when you peek into your inbox, and see that little (1) . . . and then the inevitable disappointment when it’s really just a coupon from Bath and Body Works or something. If you are working on a computer or are near your phone, the reality is you’re probably going to check it. So get ahead of yourself by setting a notification. That way, you can get work done more seamlessly without that nagging feeling of wondering if there’s an email sitting in your inbox if only you’d just go check it.
2) Curate Your Email
The technique of tip #1 doesn’t work very well if you get a million notifications. If you’re liable to flinch every time you get a new email in your inbox, getting less extraneous ones will knock down the number of heart-stops and near freak-outs. Go through your inbox and do a purge. Have you not opened an email from a certain store in five years? Tell them to stop emailing you! Not only is this an effective distraction technique, you’ll find your inbox less cluttered and your life a little bit simpler so you can focus on more important things . . . like writing!
3) Avoid Social Media
I’m guilty of this. I think we’re all guilty of this. The temptation is strong to just . . . go check that agent or editor’s Twitter. Just check it once more. Just see what they’re up to. See if they just happened to tweet about this amazing manuscript they’re reading this week. In reality, even if an agent does happen to tweet about how much she loved something, there’s no way of knowing whose manuscript it is. All checking does is add an extra set of unknowns and stress. I’m personally a big advocate of simply signing out of social media or deactivating my account to avoid what I like to call “stress-scrolling,” but many people don’t want to be completely cut off, or can’t for various reasons. For the more social media savvy writer, a good option could be to schedule posts and scrolling time . . . and maybe mute the agents who have your manuscript. Just until they get in touch.
4) Find Ways to Avoid Your Phone
I’ve had weeks where I’ve been waiting on something and am absolutely glued to my phone, checking my email every ten or so minutes even when it’s ten o’clock at night and I know I’m not getting any more emails. It’s a little added stress, every time I check. I’ve started trying to find ways to put my phone away when I’m not actively using it. A few tricks, which may sound silly but are actually incredibly helpful are:
- Wear a watch — Every time I need to check the time, I check my phone. It’s a spiral from there. Even if I don’t have any notifications, I’ll find myself checking gmail just to make sure. Then Instagram. Then Twitter. Before I know it I’m reading book deal announcements on PW and wondering what I’m doing with my life when all I really wanted was to know if it was time to walk the dog. With a watch, however, there’s no need to check my phone at all.
- Activate Airplane Mode — It’s sort of the equivalent of signing out of social media. Just turn your phone off. It changes your mindset from, “My phone and the world is waiting if I just click it,” to “I’m not using my phone right now.” A small, but subtle shift that may allow you to focus on other things! Even just putting your phone on sleep mode, if it’s not possible to completely turn it off, can put me in a better head-space.
- Buy An Alarm Clock — My alarm clock recently broke, and I’ve noticed a marked difference in my mornings, now that I’m using a phone alarm again. I just check my phone automatically now. As soon as I wake up, I’m not focused just on my morning, I’m checking email, scrolling Instagram, learning news and starting the day in a frazzled, waiting state before I’ve even had a chance to get a cup of coffee. With an alarm clock? You just turn it off, and stay in your present moment . . . until you’re more prepared and ready for face your phone, the unknown, and the day.
5) Immerse Yourself In Something
One of the things about writerly waiting is that it often happens when a writer has finished a project . . . whether it’s a book being sent out to an editor or an agent or the printer. We’ve all experienced that empty-hands feeling. It can be a great time to jump headfirst into a new project, and that can indeed be a great distraction. But if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into something new, immerse yourself in something else that inspires your creativity. Binge-read a TV show you’ve never had the time for. Indulge in that book you’ve been wanting to read. Or tackle a project you’ve been putting off, whether it’s organizing the apartment or mastering a new skill.