The Long Silence
I’m in the middle of a long silence. Not the kind that creates inner peace. (See my previous post). It’s another kind of silence – one that comes from the outside when I’m waiting to hear back from an editor or agent or when, after receiving a rejection, it feels as if a door has closed. This kind of silence feels arrow sharp. It goes down deep and creates painful uncertainty. What is there to learn from this?
Writers are expected to work for long periods of time in quiet isolation. This doesn’t mean we don’t have very full and active lives. But when it comes to our creative writing, we work alone. This is the way it should be. We wouldn’t want others tinkering with our story ideas making helpful suggestions when we are still in the early creation process.
People who need constant reassurance will find it very hard to live the writing life because–let’s be honest — reassurance is rare.
Some of us get feedback in our critique groups. Some of us may only share and get critiques from a few trusted readers, agents, and editors. Other than this, we are alone with the story for weeks, months, years.
If we are marketing a story, or seeking an agent, we are faced with long periods of silence. If we are lucky enough to sell a story, we can look forward to more waiting. Six months to a year can go by between signing a contract and receiving a revision letter from your editor. In these times it’s key to remember editors and agents are swamped. The ones I’ve met are among the hardest working people I know. The long waits aren’t personal. They’re just part of the busy publishing industry.
Fear can flourish in silence if we let it. But if we’ve done all we can to revise the manuscript and send it out in a timely manner, it’s time to go back to our lives and focus once again on our work.
It’s time to breathe. To expand rather than contract.
Art is alchemical. And writing transforms.
Try playing with a new story while you wait. Set your characters on a treacherous path. Fold in fear of rejection and loss of confidence and watch your characters deepen. Throw fiery anger into your story and watch the plot ignite. Run toward joy. Your story will gobble up all these alchemical emotions and turn them into gold. Don’t ask me how this works, I have no idea, but I do know that it works.
Nietzsche says, “We have art in order not to die of the truth.”
Writers can live with the long silences because our stories sustain us.
How do you handle waiting? Pop into comments and let fellow Dreamwalkers know what works for you.
May your stories be your journey food until we meet again.
Dreamwalkers. Walk well.