Swoon Author Kate Evangelista: The Wait
One of the hardest parts about being a writer is The Wait. It comes in many forms. Waiting for inspiration to strike. Waiting for a critique partner to return a chapter with his or her thoughts. Waiting for a response to your queries. Waiting for a publishing house to sign you. Wait. Wait. Wait. And when you think the waiting is over and done with, there’s still the wait for your book to launch. The wait involved in seeing if you—by some miracle—made it to the New York Times Bestseller List. All of that waiting can drive anyone this side of Nutsville. Even the most patient of persons has his or her limits. Well, maybe not Mother Teresa.
Are you familiar with the Marshmallow Test? Scientists sit a kid at a table with a marshmallow on a plate. Said scientist tells the kid that if he or she can wait for fifteen minutes without eating the marshmallow then he or she would be given a second marshmallow as a reward for waiting. Most kids end up eating the marshmallow. It’s the pleasure principle. We find ourselves needing to satisfy a desire instead of delaying the gratification even if we know we’ll have twice the initial prize in the end.
I find myself playing the part of the kid staring at that marshmallow. I’m so close to it that I can smell its sugary-air goodness. All I need to do is reach for it. The act would take a matter of seconds and the marshmallow would be mine. But, at the back of my mind, a small voice is saying, “Wait for it. Wait for it,” like someone giving the signal to attack. It’s excruciating torture, being in a limbo-like state where you find yourself half certain and half uncertain. You wake up thinking: is this really happening?
How patient do you have to be as a writer? I’d say a helluvalot. I normally think of myself as a patient person, much to the chagrin of those who really know me. Sometimes, I think, do I have what it takes to wait some more? Can I actually survive not knowing what I have to do next? Where is this all going? Will I achieve what I set out to do? These are some of the debilitating questions that make waiting painful. Like a professional torturer’s knife going in. It slips through just enough to hurt you, but not enough to kill you.
No one prepares you for The Wait. No one says, “Make sure you're patient enough,” when you tell them that you want to be a writer. Not that many writers talk about all those years of writing and getting out there. Sometimes, it’s mentioned in passing. But, really, it’s the hardest part. Look at J.K. Rowling. She had been writing for years and was close to giving up before Harry Potter made her an author to remember. Now, her novels are rubbing elbows with the likes of thought-provoking texts like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird and The Giver—you know, the classics that will one day be taught in school, or at least, discussed in length. Today, it’s the success or the story of the book that’s talked about, but what about those years of waiting? Sometimes, when something amazing happens, we forget about all the time we spent waiting for that amazing thing.
I honestly don’t have a clear idea as to where this post is going. I just wanted to share the experience of The Wait with you. What keeps me from going off the deep end? Writing the next book. Reading, a lot. Keeping myself busy, thinking of other things besides the fact that what I’m really doing is waiting. It’s crazy, I know. But it’s something that we all go through, especially when you’re a writer.