by Joe Siple
Every writer is familiar with rejection. It’s something we never get used to, and something from which very few of us graduate. It can be debilitating and demoralizing. But believe it or not, it’s not the hardest part of writing.
That illustrious distinction belongs to rejection’s close relative—waiting.
Back in the day, waiting took a slightly different form. Snail-mail was the method of choice for query letters, so a certain amount of waiting was inevitable. It took a couple days for my queries to get to the chosen agent and a few more days for my SASE to return to me. So I was looking at a minimum of a week for each query. It was good practice in waiting.
I’ve had other, less benign experiences as well. In 2012, a veteran editor at a large, well-respected, independent press requested my full manuscript. Can you imagine? With one email from this woman, I’d cut through all the steps—intern at an agency, then the actual agent, then the acquisitions editor at a publishing house, then their “team” (whoever they are)—and found myself at the doorstep of someone who could send me an email saying my dreams had come true. That kind of waiting is excruciating, let me tell you.
Especially when it never ends.
After a month, I sent a polite, professional follow-up email. No response. After another couple weeks I sent another polite, professional follow-up email. Still no response. But she had requested my full manuscript, so it was just a matter of time, right?
Wrong. She never responded, not to any of my half-dozen emails over the course of several months. Not wanting to land myself on some sort of black-list, I quit emailing her. I’d been ignored—also known as indefinite, perpetual waiting. It was worse than any rejection I’ve ever received.
And now? Well, still waiting, I guess. Although now I have an agent on my side, which makes it both easier (knowing I’m getting closer) and harder (having no control over what’s going on). I’m waiting to hear from editors who are reading my manuscript. Last week I sent my agent my newest manuscript, so now I’m waiting to hear about that as well. The waiting never seems to end.
I don’t just twiddle my thumbs. I try to be productive. I do what I can to get myself closer to my goal. But no matter how much work I do, it feels like all I’m doing is distracting myself from the waiting.
And the waiting is the hardest part.