Look at Facebook. Tweet.
Pay attention to neglected children/partner/job/friends.
Then sigh, pace, flip through the diary pages--how many days has it been now?
And do it all again.
I think it was Alan Bennett who said, "Writing is mostly making cups of tea."
But there are two types of tea drinking for writers. There's the "creative", mulling things over, taking a break from the desk or paper or screen, the stretching and yawning reward cup of tea.
Then there's the "waiting" cup of tea. Altogether different. This stewed and bitter brew is just a time-killing cup of tea, and it doesn't taste nearly as delicious.
The waiting that I'm talking about is, of course, is that killer time that happens after a work in progress is nominally "finished." It's waiting to get feedback from your critique group or hear from an agent, publisher or a competition judge. Ultimately, it's waiting for judgement--rejection or acceptance, yes or no.
When you're waiting to get a response from a query, or even to hear back from the wonderful agent you feel so lucky to have, time does strange things. Think back to being a child, and having to wait for your birthday, or the start of the summer holidays, or Christmas.
In Minnesota, where I grew up, my community followed the Nordic custom of opening presents on Christmas Eve. This made for some lovely memories--a roaring fire, Christmas tree lights twinkling in the darkness and, outside the window, starry skies and clean white snow.
But it also made for a long, excruciating, almost unbearable wait till the evening. My parents had plenty of suggestions for passing the time--go play in the snow, take a nap, help out in the kitchen (as if!). Nothing worked. Timed just dragged.
So now, years later, I try the same thing, looking for similar ideas that will distract me during the weeks of waiting to hear back from my agent or get news from a publisher. Playing in the snow? Well, maybe I'll go on a series of long walks, or even a short holiday. Taking a nap? OK, I'll try reading. Help out in the kitchen? God knows those cupboards could use a good clean...
What else helps?
Starting a new piece of writing, obviously, but I'm still rather attached to the piece I've just finished, so instead of starting something new, I go back to my manuscript and do what I call "scab-picking." You know--tweaks and tiny changes that are pointless at best, damaging at worst.
Blogging does--I've made this post "last" by writing two words a day, clever me!
But generally, there's nothing to be done but carry on with life, and with writing.
And tweet, of course.
And check that inbox one more time....
while drinking a cup of tea.