Pursuing a professional career as a writer involves a lot of waiting. My agent Carly wrote a great post a few weeks ago about what to do when you’re waiting for something to happen in publishing: waiting for your novel to come out, waiting to hear back from agents, waiting for reviews to come in. Her advice is on-point; twiddling your thumbs and obsessing over parts of the publishing process you can’t control (read: most of it) is crazy-making. I’m pretty good at keeping myself occupied, but lately, I’m trying to cultivate an appreciation for the “waiting” part.
It’s too easy to become overly focused on the next goal in your life and let the days rush by in a hurricane of to-do lists and busyness. We barrel through the days and weeks towards the next milestone: whether it’s a promotion at work, an artistic pursuit, or a step forward with our romantic partner. We’re a culture that prizes doing. Waiting? Being? Those we struggle with. Okay, I struggle with those things. I like to do, I’m proactive, persistent, disciplined. All good things. To a point.
“Busy” has become the ultimate place to hide in our culture. Absorb yourself in work, in tasks, in accomplishments, and people won’t question you. You’re doing stuff, lots of stuff, you’re on it, in fact, you are all over it.
It’s easier to pinpoint the wrongness of this in the rearview than it is in the moment. I think back on the summer I was working on my first novel (or rather, the first one I tried to get published). I was still living in New York then, and it would be sweltering already when I woke up at 6:30 to write before work. I’d go down to Dunkin Doughnuts every morning and get a big iced coffee to keep me company; the guy at the counter soon begin to recognize me and start making my coffee the moment he saw me walk in the door. I was still many years away from a book deal—and it wouldn’t be for the novel I was working on then—but it was the happiest summer I spent in New York. Those mornings at my desk, ice coffee sweating bullets through its plastic cup, I was full of purpose. I was, for the first time in my newly-minted adult life, being a writer.
I just turned thirty-three a few weeks ago. The thirties are a decade full of huge potential milestones both personal and professional: you’re supposed to hit your stride in your career, but also get married, buy a house, have some kids. Maybe none of these things are on your list, but I suspect you’ve got something equally ambitious in the other direction on deck in that case: travel the world, write all the books, build your own canoe, run a marathon.
My novel doesn’t come out for almost a year. Sometimes that feels like forever, and yet that on-sale date will arrive before I know it. On the personal side, I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year, and we have lots of proper, grown-up, settled down plans for the next few years. Lots of milestones to hit, lots of things to do.
But right now, in this moment, it’s a seventy degree spring day in Seattle and those I love are safe and sound. I have a book on the horizon and a man I love by my side. It’s a pretty good place to be.