Often writing is about waiting: not the creative waiting while you gather ideas, but the dull administration level of waiting.
For example, the waiting for the arrival of publisher’s briefs. These are short descriptions of the age-range, format, word counts, style & content of books that publishers intend to put on their lists. Often there are no briefs for months. Then like buses, three or four arrive at the same time, all describing destinations where your story won’t go. You have some Harry the Toad stories? They want edgy teenage tales. You’ve created Velda the Vampire, a linguistically challenging tale of fright and fear? It’s the 5-7s this time, dear author. Even if you can adapt an earlier idea and send it in, do not imagine that’s the end of the waiting.
Then you must wait while consultants are consulted, and teams meet. You must wait while – maybe - the idea they “really liked” becomes the one they “really chose”. Then comes waiting for the contract, for the editing of the text, for the roughs and sketches and covers and proofs and money and eventually for the book itself. All this can take up to two years, or longer. Most times you don’t hear, and the waiting fades into a long silence. It’s a game you have to get used to.
However, it can also be quite a dangerous game, especially when you have submitted some real writing that you care about, maybe not written for a brief or a format. At such times, the small niggle that is “I wonder what happened about x?” shuffles from its hiding place behind your paper-trays. In weeks, it grows big enough to crouch in constant sight, blinking with annoyance, even when you try to hide it away again. The niggle cannot be ignored. It lurks by the phone. It peers around the computer screen. It starts a constant grumbling, whining commentary about your story, about publishers, about your writing, about everyone else’s much better writing and luckier chances. Like the frog, it sleeps on your pillow, waking you at night, but never becoming a smiling prince. Like the brass chronophage on the new clock in Cambridge, it devours every minute of your thoughts.
And this is that dangerous stage. This is when you can cease being a writer and becomes one who waits. The creativity goes, the will goes, the faith and hope and generosity goes and there is nothing but the ticking of time. You need to shut off that dreaded nagging sound, and get back to the page. A writer is someone who writes, not waits. I must remember that!