These days, so much of my life revolves around waiting. I spend hours, sometimes days, working on an essay, query, or cover letter before I send it out, excited and hopeful and scared all at the same time.
I watch my inbox, eagerly awaiting some kind of response. Days go by, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. I want to hear something, some kind of news about whether my essay will be published, an agent wants to see my manuscript, a job wants to schedule an interview. I start to worry more about what the silence means. I’m scared it means rejection. I soon convince myself that no one likes me and I’ll never hear from anyone about anything again. I’m a failure and a loser and I’ll never get anywhere in life. I’ll never be successful.
Then, an email comes in. Some kind of response. A blog wants my essay, an agent requests the manuscript, a job would like to schedule a phone interview. I’m happy and relieved…for a few minutes. Then I’m back to worrying about all the other things I haven’t heard back about yet. Sometimes, I get the response that I dread: I’ve been rejected. In that case, I indulge myself in some self-pity before eventually getting back to work.
This is the plight of creative people, of course. I’m lucky to live in a time where I can just email stuff out instead of printing and mailing and waiting even longer for a response. But email has a downside – it gives the illusion of efficiency, the misconception that a fast response should be expected. My essays, queries, cover letters are only one in so many. I have to wait my turn.
The only way I get through it is to keep busy. I write new essays, research agents, look for more jobs. The more I send out, the more likely it is I’ll hear something from someone. The nervous energy drives me. The desire for reassurance, for accomplishment, for validation is underneath everything I do. I try to take breaks, stay calm. I go for walks, spend time with people I care about, watch something on Netflix. But I can’t help worrying about the uncertainty.
I know this is what a creative life looks like. I can’t let any one thing get me down or derail me, and I can’t live my life around responses from others. But in many ways, I don’t have a choice. I need those responses to be a successful writer. That’s why waiting for them is so hard. That’s why rejection hurts so much.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. As an anxious person, that’s what tears me apart. I have to learn to live with my uncertainty better. I have to keep things in perspective, acknowledge the accomplishments, and let go of the rejections. That’s the only way to survive the waiting game. I just wish those things were easier to do.