Writers are something of a unique breed.
I’ll be the first to admit to this. We talk to people who don’t exist, obsess ourselves with fictional events, curse plot lines in regular conversation, and create entire worlds with nothing but a pen, a notebook, and the occasional keyboard and cup of strong coffee. We scribble story ideas on our hands to write down later, people-watch in coffee shops and in the line at the grocery store, and troll through endless baby name websites looking for just the right title for our favorite characters.
We’re a little odd.
Of course, no writer is exactly like another. Everyone has their own quirks. Some of us drink tea, some drink coffee. Some of us go for walks to find the inspiration we need, others watch shows or read. Some people plot every detail before they write a word, others dive in and hope for the best.
But I think, despite our differences, all writers have one thing in common.
We spend a lot of time waiting.
Every writer has hit this stage sometime. We wait for that one editor to get back to us about a draft, we wait for our critique partners to respond, we wait for comments and likes on our blogs. We wait to hear back from agents or publishers, we wait for release dates, sometimes we’re honestly just waiting for that one stubborn character to sit down and let us into their brain so we can finish a story.
Waiting is a universal curse for writers.
Or is it?
Sometimes, I am convinced that waiting can be a blessing, if we choose to treat it like one and use the space that we’ve been given. So what do we do while we’re waiting? Check our email accounts twelve times a day, hoping for that one response that will fling our careers into the spot light? Poke at the same story over and over, obsessing over comma placements?
I don’t think so.
Here are a few things that writers who are serious about their careers as artists and craftsmen can pursue while the clock ticks on.
Honestly? Din this one into your brain. Practice it. Read every day, if you can possibly manage it. Install Audible on your phone, get a library card (if you don’t already have one) and use it. Read everything, in every genre, whether it’s well-written or awful. Badly written stories can sometimes teach as much about the craft of storytelling as masterpieces.
This is the obvious one. Keep writing. Don’t stop because your book is with an agent or a publisher. What is another story that’s been itching in the back of your mind? What other characters have you met in your wanderings? If you don’t have a book idea at the moment, write short stories. Daydream. But keep writing. The only way to become an incredible writer is to write, and write obsessively. So find a new story, another world, a new thread of an idea, and begin.
3) Continue your education.
Is writing your chosen career? If so, treat it like one. Sit down and really consider if it’s possible for you to go back to school right now, or sometime in the future. Can you take online classes in your spare time? Or manage one or two classes a semester? Take the time to consider whether you are serious enough about your writing to pursue an English or journalism degree.
4) Build a platform.
Oh, social media. How we all love and hate you at the same time.
Seriously though, the way publishing is now, no author can afford to be secluded. Locking ourselves in a room with only snail-mail letters for communication doesn’t cut it anymore. Publishers want their authors to help with marketing the books they write, and social media is one way to do that. Of course, because writers are all unique, we all have different ways of going about this, but find your tribe. Connect with people via Twitter, start your own blog, or begin making connections on Facebook or Instagram. (Personally, I am not much of a picture person, but if you are, go for it!)
In short, gone are the days when Bill Watterson could send his comic strip in by mail and live without a phone. So get out there and introduce yourself!
5) Don’t get caught up in the waiting.
Often, when we are waiting, it can be easy to sit back and obsess about one thing.
The query to that agent we really, really wanted to notice us. The blog post that should have gotten more notice than it did. The opinion of a single beta reader.
But, dearest writer, please remember this.
Your whole career does not hang on this one query, or that one blog post. You have a whole, enormous scope of possibilities around you. Stories yet to be written, characters waiting to be introduced. Your magic and creativity extend so much further than you are aware, and there is so much yet for you to explore.
You are not washed up.
The world will not end with a rejection.
You have so much to offer if you will just refuse to give up. So keep writing, keep dreaming, and open the door for new possibilities.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.