Thursday, May 3, 2012

Taking Advantage of Waiting Periods

How much waiting is there in a writer’s life?

There are plenty of active phases in a writer’s life. We study craft. We sit down to write. We gather with fellow writers for critique. We attend conferences and pitch our stories. 

And then we send out queries, proposals, or manuscripts. 

Enter, the waiting period. 

I’m in a waiting period. I sent off my manuscript and am awaiting feedback. By the time this posts, I may have it, but I know there will always come another waiting period. 

What do you do with your waiting seasons? 

I’ve had a hard time concentrating on any other projects in the last couple of weeks. I’m preoccupied in the waiting. Wondering what the feedback will be and praying about what to work on next. But I’m not feeling especially creative. And for this SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer, creativity is a necessity. (Not to say that if I’m under deadline I can’t coerce some creative spark; deadlines bring out the best in us, don’t they?) 

So, while I await word, how should I use my time? Consider these ideas next time you’re between creative writing frenzies (high output seasons):

* Pray. Do you know where you’re going from here? Have you heard from the Lord about what’s next? Downtimes (waiting periods) are perfect opportunities to pray about the future.

* Rest. Racing headlong toward deadlines is exhausting, both physically and mentally (and even emotionally). You’ve been forcing yourself past feelings of exhaustion just so you could meet your deadline. Now, you don’t have to drive yourself so hard. Rest. Refuel. Another creative frenzy is likely just around the corner, and you’ll need rest to ward off burnout.

* Study writing craft. This never goes out of season. In fact, deadlines can motivate us to study as we realize there are holes in our story. (Note: Sometimes I don’t even know what’s missing, I just know the story is missing something. At those times I prayerfully dig into craft study, and God faithfully gives me what I need.) 

* Read. Read more books in your genre. Study up on what’s current. Watch movies. This is part of refueling your creativity as well, and now’s the time. (Since you probably haven’t had time while aiming for that deadline.)

* If you can write, write. If the words, the story ideas, are coming, take advantage of them. Writing gives us experience nothing less provides. And there may soon be a larger demand on your work. (i.e. your publisher wants to discuss Book Two, or your agent wants to see your next project)

And know this about waiting seasons, we writers are right there with you. Chances are most of the writers in your circle are also waiting on something or other. Let's cheer each other on!


  1. Love this, Annette! Being in a holding pattern is rough, but you're right, that's a great time to study up and improve our craft. And you're spot-on about prayer, too. When we finally get the answer about our ms, the Lord has already prepared our heart for the next leg of the journey.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks, Angie. As I reread this this morning, it hit me. Writing daily, whether we feel like it or not (a topic for another post ;) helps us lock into our voice. Convicts me. Maybe I should pen some poetry in this season. At least I'd be writing. *grin

      Happy writing, my friend!

  2. When my husband was in school, he'd always say: "It's not that I work better under pressure. It's that I don't work AT ALL without it!"
    Can't do that yet as a writer, since I'm still working on those first few books that never wind up getting published :-)
    But I have submitted before, and I always jump into brainstorming the next project. That super-creative part before I get my outline down is really fun.

    Natalia Gortova

    1. I can relate to that Natalia! I've had so many productive pushing-up-against-the-deadline writing sessions. And I've also had seasons of new ideas flowing as soon as I finish another one. Love those times!

  3. Thanks for the encouraging post. It's great to hear how others are working through the writing process. I'm always praying about my writing and where it's going, lol. But why wouldn't we want God involved, right? Have you ever heard of a book called "Story" by Robert McKee? It's technically about screenwriting, but I found it IMMENSELY helpful in both crafting and polishing my work. Give it a look, and I hope you get helpful feedback. I used to fear feedback, but once I realized it only makes my writing stronger, I love it! Thanks again for your post!

    1. Thanks, Jae! I'll see if I can dig up a copy of McKee's book. You're so right about feedback (and critiques) helping us be better writers. I shudder to think where I'd be without my critique partners. Happy writing!

  4. For me, waiting times are a mixed blessing. It's a relief to not be so loaded down with the deadline, but I find myself antsy, anxious to find out what God will do next. Maybe that's why there are so many encouragements to wait on the Lord in Scripture. In the meantime, I try to enjoy my family and relish the little things that get pushed aside when a writing deadline swallows much of my time. Folding socks is a ministry just as much as writing a book. I try to remember this and do those things with love and joy. God bless!


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