I am not a patient person. Not At All. And yet, I chose to be a writer, a career that involves constant waiting: You work your butt off to finish a project and then you wait to see if a publisher will take it on. If they do…yay!, welcome to more waiting—for editorial notes, to see yourself in print. It’s kind of like applying for college, and waiting to get in, then getting in, and waiting to get there. Waiting for school to get out for summer, and then (if you are bored or all of your friends are out of town) waiting for it to start up again. Waiting for that vacation, for the day you can get your driver’s license, for your crush to show up…FAGDHASDGHGADK ACK ACK ACK! The waiting! It’s unholy! Never-ending! And an unfortunate fact of life that will never go away.
Fear not, my fellow Impatients (not to be confused with impatiens even though we are beautiful flowers), I have compiled a few tactics that have worked for me and my fellow Rookie contributors when dealing with an arduous, painful, stint of waiting.
1. The “Refresh and Recharge” Waiting Period
You’ve just completed something: your most intense semester yet, the run of a play, your sports season, or maybe it was just one of those life phases where you were constantly doing something. You are proud of your accomplishment and now you need to wait for what comes next, but you’ve been bringing it so hard that you don’t remember what it feels like to stand still. Not having anything to do is REALLY STRESSFUL.
This is a crucial time for self-care. You may be resistant to it at first—I usually am because I have so many plans and dreams that I want run headlong into the next thing. It’s totally normal to feel full of restless energy, like you can’t shut your mind down, but you do need a break. Your body might even force one on you—I often find myself hit by a cold after a project ends, which sucks, so avoid it if you can and take care of yourself. Here are some tips to help you on that front.
Maybe you lost some sleep while you were hard at work? If you’re still struggling to power down and get a good night’s rest, these pointers might provide some relief. Cue up this playlist to help you drift into a nice, long nap.
Try doing something active yet relaxing like walking around your neighborhood, or visiting a park, or stopping by a busy shopping area. You can pay close attention to what’s around you—smell the flowers, eavesdrop, people-watch—or just zone out. It’s up to you. The aim here is to get out of your work zone and into the world. Other than that, try not to set yourself any goals.
Delve into some serious self-indulgence. You worked yourself hard and you deserve some tender loving care. A home beautification day can mean just lounging around in bed or on the couch with the beverage of your choice. If you have a bathtub, take a luxurious bath. Pamper your skin with a face mask: I love Queen Helene’s masks because they are a good value, aren’t tested on animals, and you can find them at most drugstores or online.
Choose your favorite look from Rookie’s many nail DIYs (one, two, three, four, five, six) or learn the face-ics. If you know someone who is good at giving massages, ask them to hook you up! Taking a day or two to treat myself in these ways always leaves me feeling rejuvenated, and it gets me out of my own still-busy head.
If your entire zone got cluttered and hectic while you were busy, clearing up a little will probably offer considerable relief. Catch up on that giant laundry pile and take the time to clean and purge your room of stuff that has accumulated.
Word of Warning: Before you become a cleaning machine or dive into the next big thing, make sure you took enough time for yourself. Is your mind still whirring? Are you still carrying a lot of tension in your shoulders, neck, or face, or feeling run down? If so, keep resting and treating yourself. I know you have grand plans and like to keep busy, but you gotta recharge if you want to be on top of your game.
2. The “OMG DISTRACT ME, DISTRACT ME, DISTRACT ME!” Waiting Period
When the thing I am waiting for is a fixed period of time away—a couple of days, a week, a month—what I need most is a distraction. Perhaps, as you were cleaning, you unearthed a book you want to read, some other project that got pushed by the wayside, or inspiration to decorate your room. If so, great! Follow that urge!
My go-to for dealing with this phase is a media binge. Is there a show you have been meaning to check out on Netflix? Have at it. A video game you want to beat? Go for it. If you have a comfort series, return to it. Mine is Harry Potter; I reread all the books and rewatch all the movies. Bonus! I like to do this camped out on my couch, surrounded by my favorite snacks. If you’re looking for a series to dive into like this, just a reminder: the final Hunger Games movie comes out this year, so really, no time like the present to revisit those or read them if you haven’t already.
Other fun mini-projects include reading a favorite author’s complete works or tackling giant tomes like War and Peace or Infinite Jest. (I’ve done the former, and repeatedly failed with the latter.)
If nonstop TV or even reading makes you feel too much like a sloth after a while, this is when you can start thinking about those projects you keep meaning to tackle. Rookie contributor Anna F. suggests keeping a rolling list of “small jobs or chores you need to get done (cleaning out your closet) or skills you always wanted to learn (how to knit).” It could be a Google Doc or a physical list that you keep on your nightstand, but this way, Anna says, “whenever you’re antsy and anxious, you can just pull out that list and see if there’s anything you can get down in that hour/day/week/however long you have to kill. It’s a triple whammy: You do something you’ve been meaning to do, you distract yourself, and you get to cross something off a list.”
Don’t feel like tackling anything on your own list? You can also make this a social affair! Estelle suggests, “Check in with your friends and see if they need help with anything! Even if that thing is…HAVING FUN!”
3. The “This May End Tomorrow or It May Go on for Months (UGH!)” Waiting Period
This is the waiting period of indeterminate length. You don’t know when you will get an answer, or if you will ever feel over that person or thing. It is the story of my artistic life. When I finish writing a book, I generally go through the recharge phase and then very quickly end up here, often feeling so twitchy that I undo all of the good I did myself. For a long time, I just paced around and whined a lot during these waits, but I finally realized that you can, as Amy Rose puts it, “DO OTHER STUFF! Your creative juices doesn’t have to stop flowing just because one thing is hanging out in the stasis-station.”
I’ve found that the best way to distract yourself is to start a new project or activity. Work on that thing you’ve been daydreaming about. If you are stuck for ideas, sign up for a class that will help you take your craft to the next level or learn more about something you are passionate about. Or, learn something entirely new, like Anna F. suggested. A couple years ago, I did learn to knit during one of these fallow periods, and now I can always start a knitting project when I need to get through a potentially long wait—it’s easy to put down and pick back up again as needed. Other crafty ideas: Make a zine, a halter top or a T-shirt dress, or next on my list, a terrarium.
In addition to being crafty, you can feed your brain new things. I’ve been attending the nature programming put on by my local Audubon Society—it usually costs five bucks or so. Check your local library, park district, and colleges for free or cheap lectures of interest to you. Anna F. recommends the Duolingo app for learning a language or brushing up on your foreign-communication skills.
Minna likes Headspace, which has become one of my favorite meditation aids, too. I discovered it last year when I was beyond anxious and stressed waiting to find out whether my book proposal would be accepted by a publisher. For many of us, waiting isn’t just annoying, it is truly anxiety-inducing, so learning to breathe deeply and center yourself can be a lifesaver—it is applicable to all types of waits!
OK, my fellow Impatients, take care of yourselves, make some lists, and start those new projects and learning experiences and you will get through this. If all else fails—and you can thank Anna F. for this gem, too—just watch this clip from The Simpsons and know that Homer and I feel your pain. ♦