While waiting is not unique to publishing, Lord knows there are thousands of opportunities for waiting in this industry. Hurry up and wait is practically our motto. Waiting on agents, waiting on editors, waiting on editorial letters, waiting on illustrators and reviews and advance checks and royalty statements.
Waiting on that first initial yes.
But it turns out, publishing’s got nothing on hospitals. In the last few days, I’ve had occasion to spend far more time in hospital waiting rooms than I would like. Recently, my 81 year old father was diagnosed with a rare, cancerous tumor that had wrapped itself around his heart. Fortunately, he is in excellent shape and was therefore a good candidate for the required grueling surgery.
At the hospital, as we waited on the surgery which ended up being delayed by five hours, the eager need to get on with it diminished and instead I became hyper aware of how precious each extra moment was. He was awake and lucid and all his future pain and rehabilitation were held at bay. Each of those extra moments was a gift, one I found I was not eager to part with.
And then, as the two hour surgery dragged in to three hours, four, six, I again found myself taking great comfort in each moment, as each was a moment with no bad news. It was the existential equivalent of Schrodinger’s Cat. Until the box is opened, hope still exists.
For that is the truth of it: waiting holds not only hope and promise, but also disaster and tragedy forestalled, even if only for a little longer. We can cheat death or disappointment one more hour, or cling to our hopes and dreams for a few minutes more.
Waiting is something we endure, white knuckle our way through or, at the very least, something we want to distract ourselves from. But maybe, instead, we should view it differently.
The wait prior to publication of Grave Mercy was interminable. I was so eager to share it with readers, invite them into the world I’d created, and hoped that we would connect. I was nearly squirming in my seat with anticipation and the months dragged by.
The wait for Dark Triumph’s publication was very different. The weight of expectations from the first book definitely altered this pre-publication period. I was much more anxious this time, afraid how a second book so very different from the first would be received.
But now, I find this pre-publication period for the third book, Mortal Heart, has morphed yet again. Or perhaps it is simply that my recent stint at the hospital has given me an entirely new relationship with waiting.
With the book turned in but not yet out in the world, I find I have time to appreciate my accomplishment. I have taken care of everything I am in control of—written the best possible book I was capable of in this moment in time. I fought with it, wrestled with the characters and themes, and poured my heart and soul into it.
In short, my work with that story is done.
I feel surprisingly light and unencumbered.
The feeling of accomplishment, of personal satisfaction and completion is one I am unfamiliar with, as I have not allowed myself to pause and linger in these moments nearly enough over the course of my career. But now, I find I am enjoying it immensely.
There are no reviews, no judgments, or disappointment and I have a newfound appreciation for these unencumbered moments of my life.
It feels like that short period of time when the crops in the field are rich and ripe, waiting for the imminent harvest, but in that moment before they are gathered they are simply there, existing as a testament to nature’s bounty and gifts.
So too does this current pre-publication wait feel—a testament to the simple satisfaction of having created something.
There is an incredible freeness to living in the moment. To focusing only on the here and now and what is knowable and certain. On just being, whether that means being a writer who has finished a book or simply being present for someone else.
I now think that waiting is, in fact, its own unique kind of gift. A gift that forces us to live in each crystalline moment, even as we frantically wish the waiting was over. So instead of fretting over the manuscripts out on submission, or worrying whether or not we’ll hear back from that agent we met at the conference, or what our editor or beta readers think about our current revision, let us allow ourselves to enjoy what we know in that moment: that we finished writing a book, that we connected on some level with an industry professional, that we are reaching out to make our work stronger. Let us strive to celebrate the gift that each moment brings—even the waiting ones—for they are precious, even if we don’t yet realize it.