The Art of Waiting

Waiting for the Mail by Grant Wright Christian (WPA mural)
Waiting is hard.

Any writer that is submitting stories is in a constant state of waiting to hear back. That’s just life. Some markets are quick (Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Daily Science Fiction to name a few), but once I’ve collected my rejections from them, it’s time to get on the slow boat and submit to the markets that take 30, 60, even 90 days -or more- to respond to that precious story I worked and slaved over.

For me, the only way to stay sane about this process is to keep stuffing stories into the machine.

One thing about writing more stories is that each story becomes a little less precious, which helps. Sure, it’s the most important thing while I’m writing it (you know, love the one you’re with), but then it’s on to the next.
In order to keep the hopper full, I can’t just focus on writing things, I have to finish them. The key here is to know when you are finished.

In the introduction to her book Two Worlds and In Between, Caitlin Kiernan describes looking back at her earlier stories and seeing a kind of snapshot of herself at a certain point in time. Saying that, in her stories,

 “I see the procession of me.”

I love that! After I’ve taken a story though drafting, revision, critique, final changes and proofing, I have to be able to look at it and say, this is the very best story I can write today. 

One of the most important skills for anyone making any kind of art is the ability to really see what you’ve made. To be able to make a clear-eyed critical self-assessment of a story not only allows me to write the best story I can, it also gives me an understanding of my current skills and talents that will allow me to improve. Since I’m an optimist, I am going to assume that, with hard work, I will  be a better writer next year than I am today. 

But, I’m not going to go back to a finished story and rework it because it is what it is. My job is to write better NEW stories. Reworking old ones is chasing a kind of perfection that is not only impossible but, I believe, irrelevant. 

When I’m constantly working on something new, striving to write my best story, waiting on my submitted stories is still hard, but just the business that goes on in the background. I keep my focus on making today’s story the best it can be.

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