So here we are. As of the writing of this post, I've found myself in a strange place. Limbo, some call it. That place of infinite waiting caught inexorably between supposed and longed for happiness, and that of dejection, unrequited feelings of elation and acceptance. "But Josh," you may say, as I place these words in your mouth by way of my head, "These other places, are they heaven and hell?" "You might think that," I replay with a reverent whisper, definitely not talking to myself in this dark and lonely room. "But, no. For these places are known well among our kind. They are: Published, and unpublished."
DUN, DUN, DUH!
I know, right? Never saw that coming.
So, okay. I may have gone a little overboard there, so perhaps I should move onto the actual point of this post as it reflects my own current state of affairs in my writing career in a way you might find useful. The Big Wait, referring to the period of time as you wait for your manuscript, sent out by your agent, to be picked up by an editor for a publishing deal. It really is a sort of limbo, biblical references and spirituality aside. So here I sit, thumb firmly up...somewhere. Why? Because I'm waiting. Waiting to see what happens next with my book as publishers pour over it, judging it, and probably saying mean spirited things about it like the cool girls in highs school. Sigh. So I continue to wait, the fate of this thing I've spent far too many uncertain hours stressing over. And so the question remains...what do I do now?
Now, this isn't some personal existential crisis, but a real thing, easily applicable to other similar situations during your writing career, such as: After you've finished a draft on a novel. After you've queried agents and are waiting for a response. While your agent reads and re-reads your novel, giving you suggestions for changes. And, my current rent-free apartment in hell, while you're waiting to hear back from publishers to see if you will finally receive the external validation you so desperately, and perhaps foolishly, crave in the form of a publishing contract. So...now that you've got all this time, what now? Well, here's a few things you can do in that terrifying meantime:
Start a new project:
I think this one explains itself. Don't sit on hind quarters, waiting for your one little baby to sprout its wings and fly as only a mother knows it can. Do something! Write the next book in that series. Write the first book in a new series. Write a short story. A novella. Anything! The sky is the metaphorical limit in the finite ways the publishing industry works.
Take a break from writing:
Some people might disagree with this one, but I find it useful. Sometimes you just get burnt out. This can be especially true after completing a big project. Don't let yourself drown ever so slowly in the white hot mud of mental exhaustion. Not cool, bro! Take a break. Don't think about writing...if that's possible. Do something (and this is key)...else! Find something that completely absorbs your mind that isn't writing related. Then come back fresh and ready to burn the sweet smelling oils of midnight.
Read (many) something(s):
Books. Fiction. Non-fiction. Play a video game (with good writing). This blog (ha!). So, ya know. There's a lesson there...somewhere. Writers read. So do it.
Attend a conference:
Conferences are great for people in all different phases of their writing careers. Beginning. Middle...not middle. Whatever. Attend a conference. Learn some things. Meet some people. Have drinks. Comport yourself in the ways of a fool. I hear Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers throws a pretty mean conference (Teehee)! Check it out.
All of the above:
There you have it. Laid out all nice and neat, and possibly even semi-presentable. As craftsmen (and craftswomen), we have a lot of tools in our belts. Or purses...or knap-sacks, or fanny-packs, or handkerchiefs dangling from the ends of our hobo sticks. And it's our job to utilize them to keep our writing (and ourselves) sharp. So if you're in a similar spot as me, don't just wait around slowly strangling yourself in the brittle spider-webs of solitary hope, uncertainty, and self-loathing. DO. SOMETHING. ELSE. Now get to it.