The Writer and The Waiting Room

Today I’d like to invite you to join me somewhere most, if not all, writers are familiar with.

Where’s that, you ask?

The Waiting Room.

I know some of you are groaning right now. Some of you are saying, “I’ve been sitting in the waiting room for months now. I’m not interested in your invitation to another one.”

Just follow my lead and keep reading this post. Please? Yes, the Waiting Room is crowded. And the magazines are out-of-date. But we’re here to talk, not peruse the 2010 issue of Bowhunter magazine.

If you’re a writer, the Waiting Room is unavoidable. Truth is, if you stay the course, you’ll make repeated trips to the Waiting Room where the hands on the clock never seem to move and you wait forever for someone to call your name and say, “We’ll see you now.”

Aren’t I just the messenger of all things light and breezy today?

Why, you ask, why the Waiting Room? It’s such a waste of time.

Is it really?

What can you learn while you wait? Yes, I know you’d rather just get seen and get out of there. But stick with me. I’ve got a few suggestions for surviving all the waiting:

  1. Remember attitude is key. If I expect to wait then there are no woe is mes—or at least fewer attacks of self-pity. If I get into my appointment on time or—gasp!—early, then I celebrate. Translation: No one is an overnight success. If some author tells you that they are, they are lying. (You can tell them I said so.)
  2. Be prepared to wait. Do I want to waste time thumbing through magazines I’d never read even if I was stranded on a desert island? Translation: What are you doing while you wait for “the call”? Are you counting time or making time count by revising your manuscript, participating in the MBT Peptalks, attending conferences, connecting with other writers—maybe even encouraging other writers?
  3. Realize everyone hates waiting. Did you know that medical professionals hate being behind schedule as much as you hate waiting? And sometimes they’re running late because they’re waiting on someone else — lab results or an x-ray.  Translation: Writers aren’t the only ones who wait in the publishing world. Editors wait too. And agents. And publishers. Whether you’re pre-published or published, you’re going to wait for something because you should always be striving for the next thing. You might enter a contest and wait to hear if you finaled. Or you might decide to go to a conference, and now you’re counting down the days until you’re there — and you’ll get the chance to pitch your book.

 

So now’s your chance to chime in: What helps you when you find yourself in the Waiting Room?

 

 

 

Keys To Handling Rejection

Hi Everyone,

It’s been awhile but I’ve experienced tremendous growth since the last time I wrote.

You see, I got a rejection letter. Yeah, and the email came through on Valentine’s weekend. Needless to say my husband was at more than a loss.

Can I just admit? I took some time to cry and wonder why in the world a successful businesswoman in her own right would ever subject herself to this crazy publishing world?

We all process things differently. I did your standard sit-in-shock cry and—in typical me fashion—said a prayer and went to bed. Everything always looks better after you sleep on it, right?

I woke up, and the email was still there with a resounding “pass.” After wallowing for 24 hours, I sent off an email to my mentors and went back to my day job—the day job in which I put in fourteen hours, on Valentine’s weekend. (Are you feeling sorry for my husband yet?)

Here’s the reply I got back from one of my mentors: “Best rejection ever!”

What?

You got it. It’s exactly what she sent me via email. And you know, after my mouth hit the ground and I stared at the screen awhile, I saw that she was right.

Perspective, people. Perspective.

I wrote my first book, went to conference, got contracted with an amazing agent and submitted my work. I had accomplished something. I went back and re-read the rejection letter—and while I wasn’t jumping for joy, it could have been a lot worse.

Then I got my second perspective check. My agent said, “No = next opportunity.

So, I dusted myself off and started plotting a new story to be ready for the next opportunity.

I learned four important things that weekend:

  1. Allow yourself time to be upset, but move on. In that short twenty-four hours, I had friends praying and my family surrounded me with love and hugs and the ceremonial offering of Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  2. Pick your friends and mentors carefully. If I’d sent that email or contacted “certain persons,” they would have killed my dreams. They would have enjoyed saying, “What were you thinking?” Choose your friends wisely. Listen to the right voices.
  3. Get out of your head. You are your worst critic. Don’t live there. Get out and move on.
  4. Redefine no to yourself. No = next opportunity.

Oh, and I should tell you that my husband showed up at my work with a steak dinner for two that night. Yep, I will keep him.

So tell me, what wisdom have you gleaned from rejection letters?

Holiday non-writing, writing tips

Let’s be honest—you’re not writing during the Christmas season. Neither am I. With all the glitter, the Christmas-sing-alongs, the baking and the general melee of the season, congealing your thoughts into a coherent, let-alone tension-filled scene is like trying to choose just one cookie to choose from the Christmas buffet table.

Give it up.

Instead, how about using the next two weeks to prep for an amazing 2016 writing year?

Here are a few ideas to keep your brain simmering on story while you enjoy that spiced cider.

Give yourself a break! I’m not talking about simplifying (although, that is good—only one kind of cookie on the tray means less agonizing choices!), but rather—actually going to your room, shutting the door and having a moment of quiet. Listen, I know—if you have little children—quiet isn’t easy. I used to require an hour of reading every day during Christmas breaks (and summer, too!). The kids (if they were little) got to choose books from our special “book basket” to read on their bed. Or I might turn on an audio book and give them a few toys to play with. I might even spread out a blanket on the floor (each child gets their own) and declare it “their zone”—to play/read in.

And then go get a book, something lavish that you are reading just for the pure enjoyment of it (I can recommend a few—Rachel Haucks, The Wedding Chapel, Melissa Tagg’s Christmas novella, One Enchanted Christmas,  Becky Wade’s Christmas short story, The Proposal) and indulge yourself in a chapter. I read a book for fun nearly every weekend of the year—but I read “biz” books—novels for endorsement, or research, or just to challenge my writing—during the week. But for two weeks during Christmas, I allow myself to indulge in decadent fiction—books I might not normally have time for.

And, in quieting my brain, allowing myself this lavish luxury, inevitably, great ideas for my own writing will surface.

Quiet Time Reading—a little gift you give yourself.

 

Gather around the fire! Bring back the old “Christmas read-aloud” tradition. In our family, we do a Christmas puzzle every season. Often, we listen to Christmas music. But occasionally, we have a family read aloud—I read, while people puzzle. When the kids were younger, each child got to choose one book, one per night, leading up to Christmas. Reading aloud is like yoga for the writing brain. We hear delightful dialogue, savor story world, and become the characters we’re reading. And, when we enjoy a story together, we are reminded not only what makes a great story . . . but why we write.

Evergreen cove for CarolSome of our family favorites: David Barry’s The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog

Back To Christmas, by my author friend Dennis Canfield

(or pick up Evergreen: A Christiansen Christmas story)

 

 

Turn OFF and let your brain turn ON.  About 6 months ago, I decided to go device-free on the weekends. Yes, I post our Saturday football game crew on Facebook, but then I turn my social media off until Monday. I find it de-clutters my brain and allows me to just enjoy my people, the game, and the space of life. One of my favorite things to do is take a walk on a Sunday afternoon, let my thoughts air out and get some perspective.

When I do this, I find room for other thoughts—deeper ones that can influence the themes of my stories, the depth of my writing.

So . . . let’s get crazy this weekend and walk away from social media from the 24th through the 28th. Really. And then, maybe get outside, take a walk. Give your brain a rest. It’ll come back online, restored and ready to go after the holidays.

I’ll miss you, but I’ll see you then.

Have a great Christmas holiday!

Warmly,

Susie May

smw_sig_without_background06e211

 

Reality Check: When Your Writing isn’t Measuring Up to Your Expectations

I was talking on the phone with a writer-friend a few weeks ago, encouraging her as she prepared to submit a manuscript to an agent. She gave me a rundown of what she had left to do – a list of one-more-things that she needed to finish before she could push SEND.

After detailing all her must-do’s, she said, “I know it’s not going to be perfect.”

Something in her tone made me pause and ask her, “Do you hear yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“You said ‘It’s not going to be perfect.’ But the way you said it, you sounded disappointed in yourself – like somehow, someway, you should be able to make this manuscript perfect.”

There was a moment’s silence, and then she said, “I guess you’re right. I am disappointed in myself.”

And that’s when I said:

“Writing is not the art of perfection.”

I know a lot of talented writers. Award-winning, best-selling authors. You know what? None of them write perfect manuscripts.

I also know myself. I try to up my game with every novel I write. Even so, writing is about getting better – not about being perfect. Writing is challenging enough without setting my sights on some unachievable goal of flawlessness.

As my friend and I talked some more, I tried to help her readjust her expectations for herself. My advice was something like:

“When you’re done with the manuscript, you have to be satisfied that you’ve given it your best – whatever that is right now – and that makes it good.”

My friend had spent months rewriting her novel, utilizing feedback from both other writers and beta-readers. She attended conferences and even paid for critiques. Yes, I had to remind my friend that there was no guarantee that the agent would decide to represent her. But at some point, she had to submit her manuscript, trusting that her effort was enough, and prayerfully leave the results in God’s hands.

How do you avoid unrealistic expectations as a writer — and accept your best efforts, rather than thinking you have to craft a perfect manuscript?