Monday, April 14, 2008

Is the waiting game patience, or solitude?

Much of your time as a freelance writer is spent waiting. Waiting for commissioning editors to read your idea, manuscript or screenplay. Waiting for them to make a decision, or waiting for somebody further up the food chain to make a decision. Waiting for the next meeting, the next response, the next email, the next phone call. Waiting, always waiting.

If you're not careful, all this waiting can drive you batshit albatross fishspanner barmy. Your wonderful idea, your deathless prose, your gripping script - all of them sat on somebody's desk, somebody's hard drive, gathering dust [or its digital equivalent]. And there's nothing you do about it. A friendly phone call or email enquiry every week or two, a gentle reminder nudge.

Get too persistent and you become that nutty, semi-stalking freelancer whom nobody wants to employ. Act too casual and you fret that those with the power to make things happen will decide you don't care. In truth, they almost certainly don't give a thought to your feelings or motivations. If the work's good enough, and you're someone with whom they want to work, little else matters to them.

So what do you do while waiting to stop yourself going albatross flange snarkwibble crazy? Write something else. Waiting to hear back about some TV submission? Don't wait for rejection or validation on a single project, get to work on the next one. Don't depend upon a single commissioning editor or producer for your writing future. Spread yourself about, put some new irons in some fresh fires.

When people say writing is a muscle that needs exercising, I tend to agree. For example, last week I wrote a pair of two-page pitches. One I'd been mulling over for more than a week. The other came from my files of newspaper clippings, articles that catch my eye as potential springboards for future projects. [Women's pages and photo-features in colour supplements are great for these.]

One took two days to write up, the other took a few hours. I gave both a polish and emailed them off. Woke up the next morning with a new idea already percolating in my cranium. By the time I'd scrambled down some notes, the title for yet another idea had popped into my imagination, bringing with it another complete story waiting to be caressed on to the page. Lovely jubbly.

So, if you're waiting for others to validate your work, don't. Write something else, something new. Keep your muscles working. Alternatively, phone up a writer friend for a chin wag. [What do you mean, you don't have any writer friends? Go get some. Now.] There's something so heartening as listening to the travails of another writer. We all struggle, we all battle, we all want to do our best.


Paul Neal said...

Excellent advice. And from my point of view at the minute perfectly timed. Cheers

lawson said...

mum says can we have 2000ad book signed and if i dont get in to dilworth she wasnt joking shell send me to you for some high school education in scotland she wasnt joking