Dealing with Ambiguity

by LA Bourgeois
published in Writing

Writers deal with ambiguity regularly. Every time we submit a piece to a publication, it exists in both states: published and unpublished. Until the acceptance or rejection slides into our inboxes, the piece remains in limbo. 

Maybe we decide to send it out to several places at a time. The anxiety heightens. What if two publications say yes, or if the one that I’m not as excited about says yes, and I say yes to publishing it there, and when I pull the piece from consideration with the other publication they say, “Oh, we were just writing to say that we want to publish your piece, too.” 

Or maybe I don’t hear from any of them and only receive the chittering song of crickets in my inbox.

Ambiguity can create anxiety, that amorphous rising of energy that sends us into a spiral of worry. What will happen? Will my piece be accepted or rejected? Does the amount of time passing mean that they didn’t like it? Or that they haven’t even read my pitch yet? The middle of the night can turn into existential dismay as sleep retreats in favor of the swirl of worry.

Does this sound like you? Oh, good! We’ve started a midnight reading circle. Pull up a book, and we’ll all distract ourselves to sleep.

What can you do to deal with this ambiguity? How can you continue to write while enduring these questions?

Do you have a technique to cope with anxiety and ambiguity that’s helped you in the past? Reach back into your memory and see if you can remember a time that you coped successfully with these feelings. Do a little journaling and write down what you did. Can you apply that technique to this situation? Give it a shot and see what happens.

If you can’t remember a time when you successfully coped with anxiety and ambiguity, here are a couple of options to help you deal with these uncertain moments.

Get out of Your Head

Get creative. Get physical. Get outside if you can.

Delve into something creative that focuses your attention on something simple like making candles, planning next year’s garden, coloring in a coloring book. Maybe do a blind sketch of your dog or take a hike along a path you rarely travel. Knit a pattern that takes all your attention. Practice that song you’ve been wanting to figure out.

Allowing yourself to dive into a creative process, especially one where you have to focus on physical things or actions, releases stress and frees your mind from that thought spiral of anxiety.

A Meditation to Release Worries

Worries in your mind can sound like so many songbirds, twittering and tweeting incessantly. Try this meditation to encourage your concerns and questions to migrate away like the birds in the autumn.

Have a pen and paper handy and get settled in a quiet place. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. With each breath, inhale inspiration and creativity, and love. With each exhalation, feel tension and stress leave your body, starting at the top of your head and descending to your toes.

Bring your worries into your mind. As they begin to swirl, transform them into birds. Watch them dip and flutter. Note their color and the different designs on their wings. See how glorious they are. Take a moment and thank them for their service. Tell them how grateful you are that they have taken the time to remind you of the dangers in the world.

Now, bid them goodbye and watch them flutter away into the distance.

When you refocus on the area around you, you see one little bird who has remained. Her wings shine bright, iridescence catching the light as she flits toward you. This songbird is a messenger from your subconscious, your wiser self, your higher self, and your muse. She alights on your shoulder and leans into your ear, delivering a message. “In your writing today, you will focus on…” Listen to what she has to say. If you like, take a moment and write down what she told you.

And now that those worries have all fluttered away, get to work. This isn’t to say that the worries won’t return. But while they are playing in the wind currents, you can get back into your writing for a bit. And by continuing to practice sending them away, you will find that they will be banished more easily.

Dive into Your Work

Don’t waste your time chasing butterflies. Mend your garden and the butterflies will come.

Mario Quintana

This quote speaks to me of changing my focus. Instead of worrying about what a potential publisher or agent thinks, focus on improving your writing. Select a weak area and take a class. Look at an older piece and update it, incorporating all you have learned since writing it. Pull out a book on the craft and use it to frame meditations and journaling on how to improve your writing as a whole.

Dig in the soil of your work and improve it. Encourage your seedlings to grow good, strong roots. Nourish your garden with daily waterings of inspiration and do the work of weeding to maintain the beauty.

While you will still need to invite visitors to view your garden (ie. Send out queries and pitches, share with your social media followers and newsletter subscribers), the improvement will make it easier to attract new folks and you’ll find the work pays off in responses to pitches and queries.

This limbo we’re experiencing won’t resolve with easy answers. And we can’t avoid that spike of tension that rises in our souls.

But we can learn how to deal with that tension. To bravely discover ways to disperse this natural emotion and release the stress of our anxiety.

Do what you have to do. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Reach out if you need support.

LA (as in tra-la-la) Bourgeois is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach who empowers you to embrace JOY as you manifest your creative goals through her Creativity and Business Coaching. Battle resistance, procrastination, and overwhelm with her at your side, gently encouraging with humor and heart. Discover more at her website,

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