Tales & images from life as me…

The Waiting


As an English teacher I had loved the swirling joy of words and their impact on the children in my classes. I had especially thrilled at the transition from ‘I hate reading’ or ‘Oh no not poetry!’ to ‘What are we doing today Miss? Can we do some more…’. Pure magic.

But when I was asked what I really wanted to do, if I could do absolutely anything in the world, I was surprised to hear myself say ‘I’d write.’

I didn’t know what it would be about, but the idea thrilled me and somehow it took hold. So, as many of you know, I stopped teaching, said some very sad goodbyes and decided to at least ‘have a go’.

It isn’t easy, in fact in some ways it’s harder doing it full-time than squeezing writing in around a job – there’s just more pressure I suppose, you’re somehow expected to produce more and get noticed faster! Honestly, it was completely miserable some days, but I don’t want to talk about that here. I think all writers could spend volumes talking about that part and I’m trying to stay positive. No. I wanted to write about the one thing no one ever mentioned – on all the forums, in the ‘how to write’ books, when I spoke to other people in the industry – no one ever mentioned… the waiting.

We are told to build a name for ourselves by any means possible. Perhaps you begin with short story competitions. You find the inspiration, splurge the words onto the page, stroke it, hone it, perfect it, maybe even bravely show someone, and then you send it off… And wait.

Perhaps you start a blog, post some snippets of your day, your work, images from your life. You upload carefully… And wait.

Why not make some money as the book slowly develops? Crafted pitches for feature/article ideas are e-mailed to editors, and what follows? That’s right… you wait!

Enter an online forum for feedback and reviews on your early novel chapters – brilliant idea! The biography is completed, a blurb entered, chapters uploaded. You’ve done your reviews, the points are in the bank, there’s nothing else to do… but wait.

And then there are the agents and the publishers. That’s waiting on a whole other level!

Plus there are the nibbles, now they’re dreadful. Perhaps an editor responds with some initial interest requesting a little more information, so – being a lowly freelancer – you scrabble about getting everything together as instantly as possible. And guess what follows? Oh yes indeed, more waiting!

And what makes the waiting a million times worse is the dark and dreadful presence of The Nothing. There is endless potential for The Nothing to get writers. You see, it seems entirely accepted that as a mere wannabe, you should wait. If you nag or chase or follow up too much they get cross and just ignore you. It is simple expected that you will wait until they deign to contact you. And of course a good chunk of the time that may very well be never. No one needs to worry that writers will ever get big headed – believe me, every single day you are given a great big helping of humble pie. There’s really Nothing worse! The lack of response just leaves you hanging, wondering if you were close or miles away, or if you even registered on their day at all.

And then, just when you think you are worthless and all your efforts are mere pretention, you have killed your babies (a writer’s term not to be taken literally – it means cutting out chunks of text) and tried to please everyone whilst very effectively pleasing no one… there it is… out of The Nothing, comes – Something.

This week it’s been an article commission, last month it was getting placed in the Top Ten Final on YouWriteOn. Whatever it is, it’s that little ray of hope that keeps you going. The problem is that every time you get one you think it’s all alright now. You’ve made it. It’s a done deal! Haven’t you heard of me? No?

Oh, that’s right, it’s just another step along the way. There is more work, and more waiting to be done.

At first I was disappointed, but then I realized something. If every step feels as great as the ones so far have when I finally get up thm, and if every step pushes me as hard as the last few months’ worth have, then perhaps it’s pretty fantastic after all. And in between the waiting, I will work – just to fill the time, you know!

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5 responses

  1. Dan Kelly

    Good to know what the future holds for me then…! I love the way you write; it’s refreshing to hear someone openly talk of not only the difficulties but more rewarding benefits in writing. You were the first to inspire me into the world of journalism and, hopefully some time in the future, publishing. Really happy that you’re making those little steps forward and I hope you acheive everything you set out to do. As one of those students you left so many years ago, I can safely say you are missed!

    June 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

  2. well at least you didn’t have to wait long for a comment 🙂 Tried to phone you to wish happy birthday, but think only have your old number because my phone broke on my cycle trip and I lost all my tanzania numbers etc best of luck with the waiting,I’m waiting for my signed copy of survival scriptures 🙂

    June 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    • Sorry Gary, that was my number but I’ve barely been in Tanzania and when I have been I’ve been out of network in the bush! Completely mental at the moment. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I know I have been very rubbish and not acknowledged yours either. So sorry. Hope it was good. Lots to catch up on, will have to email soon! Lots of love x

      June 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm

  3. carriepots

    Really, really ‘alive’ writing Melissa. You have such guts to stick with it and ride the waves
    of hope and despair which engulf you out of the blue … as Rumi writes “Every morning a new arrival” …keep going!

    June 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

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