Waiting for responses to your writing is a writers lot. Pieces you send your friends. To your editor. Finally, and most heart-stoppingly, to an agent or publisher. Or out into the world as an e-book. The ritual, I would imagine, remains the same. You tell yourself it is done, that you need to stop fussing over it, that further tinkering will do neither you, nor your writing any more good. So put that stamp on the envelope. Hit send. Begin the wait.
Writers are commonly characterised as a neurotic lot. I suspect it may be this repeated waiting that does it. There is a very brief (for me) initial rush of relief at sending my work on its way. My firm resolution managed to separate myself from my darlings, a necessary thing, well played sir. But then the wait begins. And you start to think. If you are really foolish (and I frequently am), you have another look over the piece you have sent away.
It is a grotesque patchwork of errors and cliches. It looks like the barely literate scrawlings of a brain damaged escapee from solitary. Every. Single. Sentence. Is wrong.
Okay, maybe not THAT bad, but the demons of doubt and spotting obvious not-yet-made-improvements-you-should-already-have-caught do make themselves known.
And you are still waiting.
Alone in the silence of no reply, with just the Jiminy Crickets of your lesser nature chirping the worst possible outcomes in your ear.
Focusing on new work is hard, as always there is consideration of alien eyes upon the words you sent away, and alien evaluations of your soul, as expressed in those words. You are being cross-examined, and are not even there to defend yourself. Your words must do that alone. Oh dear. Neurotic seems a fair reaction.
I submitted to Critter – the fabulous thing is you get feedback that very week, even that very day. Surely that wait is brief, tolerable? Not like the six weeks of agony you could go through with a mailed submission, and that could be a fast response time! A few days won’t be too bad at all.
Wednesday. Nothing. Thursday. Nothing. Friday. Nothing. I check the crit counts, most other submissions have been critiqued. What is wrong with mine? Is it that bad? Saturday. Nothing. At this stage a certain madness creeps in – and in order to preserve myself I indulge in a greater fantasy… maybe there is nothing wrong with it! A manic giggle is suppressed at that thought, but it at least leavens the doubt storm that has perched permanently upon my brow. Jiminy and his buddies are deafening by now.
Sunday. My inbox says hello. Someone has critiqued me. Hallelujah! Ping. A second critique has arrived.
Jiminy laughs at me. My index finger flicks his irritating face across the room. I gather the same firm resolution I used to send away my words in the first place. These are critiques… this is help coming my way. This is not a rejection letter. And if it was, not opening it will not keep it from being real. Schrodinger’s cat this is not.
I open the mail.