Monday, February 11, 2008


What does waiting have to do with contests, with writing?


Waiting until you feel your work is ready to submit to contests, to agents, to publishers. Waiting to hear from those submissions. Waiting, waiting, waiting—for the contest final, the contest win, The Call. Waiting is inevitable.

Waiting isn’t fun. Isn’t easy. Takes its toll.

Every writer could give a waiting story. Of weeks becoming months, months stretching into a year or more, waiting to hear back from an agent or editor on a submission. Total all those submissions and we often wait for years and years. This waiting can chip away at our confidence, at our productivity, at our sanity. We struggle to not take this personally, to remember waiting doesn’t intimate some lack in us or in our words. Though too often that’s how we feel.

Let me interject here—there are far tougher waits than publication. Those of us who’ve sat beside an ill loved one or prayed for an unsaved or addicted family member, or waited up for a teenager out past curfew, or for bills to get paid, a mate, a baby—the list is endless and personal—have lived that truth. It’s helpful to keep publication in perspective, but that doesn't diminish its importance. God gave us talent, a desire to write. We’re not supposed to bury our talent, unless it’s on the piled desks of beleaguered editors.

Waiting requires patience.

Most writers find patience in short supply. One of the many reasons Seekers love contests is they have a timetable, a promised end. Publication isn’t so kind. We’re ready, for Pete’s sake. The work is, too. We’ve had confirmation in contests; from editors who reject a story, but then ask for something else; from reading published books and realizing our manuscript stacks up. We know we’re ready. So what are we waiting for? To sign books in the nursing home dining room, wearing a bib and a toothless grin?

Wish I knew. Truth is waiting requires trust. It’s not always wise to trust ourselves. I can think of times I wanted something and wasn’t ready for it. Or worse, what I wanted was totally wrong for me. If we can’t put trust in ourselves, we surely can’t put it in publishers with lines opening and closing, editors coming and going. The only certainty for pubs is the last check. Pretty discouraging if it weren’t for the fact that God’s in this, too.

Whether we feel it’s okay to pray about getting published or not, God knows what we want. And He’s in control. Everything we seek must first go through the sieve of His will. His timing. I recommend the book If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat by John Ortberg. He says, “Too often we want God’s resources, but we do not want his timing.” Ouch. He also says, “We forget that his work in us while we wait is as important as what it is that we think we are waiting for.” So we might have a lesson to learn, some growing to do. That’s harder still. I know. I’ve experienced some of those lessons.

While we’re waiting, what should we do? Twiddle our thumbs? Whine? Rant? Upon occasion, sure, but not for long.

Waiting is more active than that. Best keep those thumbs on the keyboard and write another manuscript. It also helps to develop strategies to keep our spirits up. At a writers’ retreat we attendees poured out our hearts onto lengths of toilet paper—two ply works best—then ceremoniously flushed our frustrations away amidst laughter and yes, a few tears. We felt surprisingly purged afterward. Another quote: “Will you have the patience not to force it, but to wait patiently, to continue to learn about your giftedness, humbly receive feedback and coaching from others, grow one step at a time, and trust God’s plan rather than what you think is your need.” While we’re waiting, Ortberg says we’ve got work to do.

Fifteen talented writers inhabit Seekerville. When we established our little oasis, none of us were published. Seven now are and the rest will be. How can I say that with such confidence? Seekers know how to wait. We’re taking what action we can and trusting God for the rest. Perhaps 2008 will be the year the waiting ends. What a party we’ll have here in Seekerville!

Consider this your invitation.



  1. Janet, what a great post. You hit so many nails on the head, Sistah, you might want to consider carpentry as an alternative career choice.

    Beautifully put, graciously said. Thanks for the faith, the warmth and the belief.


  2. Janet said,
    we often wait for years and years. This waiting can chip away at our confidence, at our productivity, at our sanity.

    That is so true. Everything you said was right on the money. And it's so true that we could have a pity party, give up, stop trying to learn and grow, lose our enthusiasm for our writing, but I don't believe that's what God wants for me or any of us. I sometimes look at it as a test. What will I choose to do? Something positive and productive? or counter-productive? It's hard, but not impossible. I've learned so much about myself, and I'm learning to trust God. I didn't realize before that I had such trust issues. Or that I was so uptight and impatient. But nobody ever told me it would be easy.

  3. Your words went straight to my heart this morning, Janet. Nope, I sure don't want to hold my first book signing in the community center of my convalescent home! But as many times as I've let the discouragement of waiting steal the joy of writing, God has always found some way to remind me I'm working for Him, not myself or anyone else. His "royalty checks" are, in the long term, the only ones worth cashing in.

  4. Not much different than the Army. Such is life. You overnight it with your last dime and a year later haven't heard anything.

    Sit around and wait.

    Welcome to the real world.

  5. Ruthy, I'll pass on the alternative career as a carpenter. The nails I'd hit would be attached to my hands and that would mess with my manicure. You know what a girly girl I am.

  6. Melanie, I'm guessing we all have trust issues.

    And you're right, it is a test in a way. To see if we really want it. If we're willing to give it the effort it requires.

    All this builds us into the kind of writers that will never take success for granted. We'll be better and stronger for the wait. But man, it's tough.

  7. Oh, Janet that is so true. You are somewhat high maintenance...

    Okay, no carpenter jobs for you.


    And Tina, I LOVE that sensibility. Last dime and a year in limbo...

    Such a business!!!

    Oy vay.


  8. Myra, love your idea of God's royalty checks! It's awesome how He finds ways to encourage us when we need it most.

  9. Tina, love your practical take! It's the real world all right. That doesn't mean we have to like it. I'm so thankful to have writer friends who understand.

  10. Remember that while you're waiting you KEEP WRITING. That's the key. Yes, waiting is just a SYNONYM for publication, honestly. But the best thing you can do after you submit a manuscript or contest entry is just trying a forget the whole thing.
    Keep writing. So when the wait is over, you've got another book to send in.

  11. Mary knows what she's talking about. Not sure how many books Mary wrote while she waited, but she's got oodles of books coming out this year and next.

  12. I had twenty finished novels on my computer when I sold me first one.

    But you know, I think I might have a compulsive streak when it comes to writing and I'll probably keep writing all my life even if the day comes no one wants the books.

    Writing is just what I do for fun.
    I've also written...thinking...counting... five more books since I sold my first one. Well, five and a half because I'm hard at work on a new one.

    Not sure what that's about. OCD, I suppose.

  13. OCD or not, Mare, that's good advice.

    Send it out and move on.

    That tags right on to what Tina said about the last dime to overnight something that sits for a year...


    But true.

    Madelyn Hunter (NY Times bestseller of ABA historical fiction) addressed our local RWA group a few years back. Tough, strong, down-to-earth lady who just kept writing, writing, writing.

    Big books. I mean B-I-G....

    And once she sold the first one, the others tumbled like dominoes, boomp, boomp, boomp. I think in the space of six months, maybe eight, she had three books out and was headed up the list at an amazing pace.

    Her tip: Keep writing. Keep putting it out there. Don't stop, don't pause, don't pass GO, don't collect your $200.00...

    Just keep working.

    Good advice.


  14. That's an awesome number of books, Mary!!! If that's OCD, then we all could us some. :-)

  15. Ruthy, I've met Madelyn Hunter. Maybe right after she sold. I didn't realize she'd hit the New York Times list. That's impressive!

  16. Great advice, Janet. Uh, Ruthy, can I at LEAST collect the $200.00?


  18. Great post. Im not a writer but the waiting reminded me of my first year out of school. Waiting for a job. I would go to interviews and then wait get a call saying you are a close second. Boy i hated that. It really can be demoralizing waiting and being rejected or being told if someone leaves you have a job. but still waiting. Finally after the first year i had a break (vacation)came back fresh. I didn't get that full time job but did get smaller ones which helped.
    I can fully understand how waiting could be as a writer, I do understand the anticipation and then the disappointment if it doesn't win but as you said dont give up.
    I hope the remaining ladies will all be published by the end of the year also that would be awesome.

  19. Ah, yes, Camy. The author equivelant of a primal scream.
    We all feel better.

  20. LOL! Camy's the only honest one in the bunch. ;-)

  21. Jenny,
    Your waiting for a job isn't all that different than the waiting a writer does. It'll be awesome to have you at the party when we put up our Seekerville SOLD sign!

  22. that would be so cool to have a party
    better come to australia to celebrate

  23. Learning that waiting was an action verb was one of life's best lessons. I haven't had to wait much yet in my writing but knowing that I can keep writing and learning will help.

  24. Thanks for the encouraging reminder. :)

    Once I did a word study on "waiting" in the Bible. Many of the words that we translate "wait" or "expectantly wait" or "hope" are almost violent in their intensity. It is confident and desperate at the same time. It is active, yet it rests in the right place. Waiting on God takes grasping and clinging and watching. It takes silence and crying out and unshakable faith that is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. "My soul waits in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him." (Ps. 62:5) I like that. I'm waiting all right, but not for editors or agents or anyone else. I'm waiting for God only!

  25. Oh, Lori! How beautiful. Brings it all into perspective, doesn't it?

  26. Jenny, Australia would be a blast! Can all fifteen of us stay with you? ;-)

  27. Patricia, with your attitude, you'll handle whatever comes!

  28. Lori, so beautifully put. How can it be otherwise with scripture? Thanks for sharing.

  29. sure but as Cheryl wants to see cricket i suggest i find somewhere in Adelaide to hold us all!
    but i would find a place for you all.

  30. Amen what Lori said! So beautifully put.


  31. Jenny, Adelaide is the name of my heroine in my debut novel Courting Miss Adelaide. Sounds like a perfect place to party!

  32. Janet....this is such a wonderful post. Great reminders...wish I'd heard this..and taken it to heart.. about five years ago. LOL!


  33. Hi Janet,
    You're right. Waiting is life. Right now, I wait in carpool lines and hope my two year old doesn't nap too long because that means I'll be up half the night "waiting" for him to go back to sleep. Then my five year old comes out of school with her big smile dragging her backpack that's way too big for her on the sidewalk. And than night my two year old pokes me in the middle of the night and says "Mommy. Eyes open." And I snuggle him til he fals back asleep and think, so what? These years don't last forever....Waiting isn't so bad. Thanks for helping me think about my writing that way...