A Writer’s Life: The Waiting Room

Today I’d like to invite you to join me someplace most, if not all, writers are familiar with. Where’s that, you ask?

The Waiting Room.

Oh. My. Word. Your groans probably registered on the Richter scale. Stop it right now and come on in. Yeah, the Waiting Room is crowded. And the magazines are out-of-date. But we’re here to talk, not peruse the 2005 issue of Bowhunter magazine

If you’re a writer, the Waiting Room is unavoidable. Truth is, if you stay the course, you’ll make repeated trips to this room where the hands on the clock never seem to move and you languish forever, wondering when someone will call your name and say, “We’ll see you now.”

Aren’t I just the messenger of all things light and breezy today?

Why, you ask, why the Waiting Room? It’s such a waste of time.

Is it really? 

What can you learn while you wait? (Yes, I know you’d rather get seen and get out of here. But stick with me.)

  1.  Understand attitude is key. If I expect to wait then I avoid the “Woe is me” attitude — or at least succumb to fewer attacks of self-pity. If I get into my appointment on time or — gasp! — early, then I celebrate. Translation: No one is an overnight success. If some author tells you that they were, they’re lying. (You can tell them I said so.)
  2. Come prepared to wait. Do I want to waste time thumbing through magazines I’d never read even if I was stranded on a desert island? Translation: What are you doing while you wait for “the call”? Are you counting time or making time count by revising your manuscript, attending conferences, connecting with other writers — maybe even encouraging other writers?
  3. Realize everyone hates waiting. Medical professionals hate being behind schedule as much as you hate waiting. Translation: Editors wait too. And agents. And publishers. (Side note: Please, no comments with “waiting for my doctor” horror stories.  Not the point of this post. If you really need to vent, email me at beth@bethvogt.com. I’m married to a doctor. I can take it.)

Time for me to sit back and see what y’all have to say about time spent in the Waiting Room. Tell me how you handle waiting for feedback from your critique group. Or from your agent. Or for the “sign here and would you like an advance with that?” phone call. How do you make waiting worthwhile?


*Photo credit: That’s me and my daughter. In my husband’s waiting room. With a copy of author Jody Hedlund’s latest release, The Doctor’s Lady. The sleeping pose is for the sake of the column — not a statement on Jody’s writing. I loved reading The Doctor’s Lady!

Post Author: Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.

71 Replies to “A Writer’s Life: The Waiting Room”

  1. Great post, Beth. A much-needed dose of reality. I think it’s helpful to view the waiting room as an opportunity to plot or write your next book, to plan marketing strategies, and to continue to learn the craft. It’s all a part of the writer’s journey.

  2. Meghan,
    Always fun to “see” you on the other end of the blogosphere! And I agree: The waiting room is part of the journey for writers–and it can be time well-spent. After I send off a manuscript, I allow myself some (much needed) down time and then move on to what’s next: plotting the next book, editing the next project, or brainstorming a critique partner’s novel. I’m waiting, yes, but I’m not wasting time.

  3. Great post, Beth. I’m currently in the waiting room doing what else? WAITING. I consider it a blessing though because I am researching (I write non-fiction), improving my writing skills, and plotting my next book. It’s all good, all part of the process, and I just consider myself lucky (and blessed) to even be at this stage of the game. I do have to admit though, I am the most impatient person alive so obviously this is God’s way to help me work on it, right? 🙂

    1. Hi, Jenny Lee!
      Nice to run into in the waiting room. I think writers are either in the waiting room, just leaving the waiting room, or just entering the waiting room.
      Make sense? (If not, it’s probably because I need to be in bed!)
      I love how you view the waiting room as a blessing–and are taking advantage of it: researching, improving your skills, and plotting. No thumbing through outdated magazines for you!

    2. I think the hardest thing about the waiting is not being absolutely SURE that the editor actually HAS what you’re waiting for word on! Just this past Friday I discovered that a piece of music I had written off at a publisher after a check-in resulted in a no-response….actually never arrived!

      1. Kathleen:That’s frustrating, for certain! It has happened to me and, if we check with others in the waiting room, I bet we find out it has happened to them too. I’m usually a bit too patient about waiting to check about something I’ve sent in … I add on at least an extra month, whatever the recommended wait time.

    1. LOL!
      Jordyn, my husband is a family physician and he does OB too.
      He’s the medical expert for a lot of my writing friends. He just asks that they clarify if the characters are human or alien. 😉

  4. I love this analogy, and I will risk your ire with one “doctor” comparison, but I hope it’s appropriate: I see an OB two hours away from where I live. He always runs late b/c he takes his time with patients. Patients who live nearby get frustrated about the long waits. Because I’m coming from a distance, I have a different attitude. I expect a doctor visit to be an all-day event. I bring work with me and I use the time–and I love it, because more often than not, I’m kidless during that time!

    1. Actually, Kathleen, that’s a good “doctor” comparison.
      As patients in the waiting room, we can assume we know why we’re waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting. The doctor’s playing golf, right? Or sitting back in her thumbs while we languish, watching the hours tick by.
      But, it may be that a full-blown emergency is delaying your “The doctor will see you now” announcement.
      The same is true in the writing world.
      We don’t know why we’re waiting, why we haven’t heard back from our agent or the publisher who has our proposal. And we often assume the worst: that we’re just being ignored. Not the case. There’s often very good reasons why we’re waiting–and we need to do something other than wait and worry.
      ‘Nuff said.

  5. Great post Beth – I’m in the waiting room right now and it can be difficult to know what to do next especially if you’re hoping to do a sequel. I go on with the other writing side of my life and look for copywriting and editing work and pray – a lot. 🙂

    1. Martha:
      I agree: Waiting is difficult. Sometimes I go from project to project. Or I help other writers with their projects … and then I finally settle in on something of mine. And, because my faith is important to me too, prayer also helps.

    2. I enjoyed your comment about doing a sequel, but from the newbie waiting room perspective. As an unpublished author, I’m a regular on the sit-com known as the “Waiting Room.” The problem is: my first book has yet to make it out of queries and I’ve already writing the sequel. It’s a funny place to be because I feel like I’m sewing a wedding dress for a bride that has yet to receive a proposal! 🙂

      1. P.J., don’t let that feeling settle, because by moving forward with new work, you’re doing it right. Agents, editors, publishers would rather see that a writer has more in the bag, you know?

  6. I enjoyed your post, Beth. I’m also in the waiting room right now, but have gone on to another project. It beats staying plugged in to the email account while waiting for word. You know what they say about watched pots.

  7. Sandra:
    Ah, the checking-the-email-account-too-many-times-a-day madness. Can you drive you c-r-a-z-y, can’t it? I think that’s why most doctors’ offices don’t have clocks in the waiting rooms. You have to choose where your focus is while you wait.

  8. Funny. Something happened and I waited and waited to post a comment. I think it’s difficult to understand the waiting sometimes. When you read about the waiting, you think “I can do that.” When an agent takes months to respond to a proposal, you have all sorts of thoughts going through your head. After you survive that experience once, you think, “I can do this again.” So, you repeat the process and keep writing.

    1. Stacy:
      The “idea” of waiting and the “reality” of waiting: two very different things. You are sooo right, my friend.
      And then, if you’re going to stay in this business, you have to determine to do it again and again and again. I’m doubly waiting right now: Waiting for my first novel to come out & waiting to hear back from my editors about the synopsis I just sent in.
      And 🙂

  9. Waiting’s supposed to build character and perseverance or something like that, isn’t it? Imagine how Biblically perfected all us writers will be, with regards to patience. 🙂 Love your husband’s waiting room . . . at least he used cheery colors. Nie choice of reading material, too. Thanks for this encouraging post, Beth!!!

      1. Good morning, Amy!
        Waiting builds character–one way or the other. I can choose to be built up or to let waiting chip away at my character. Tick tock, tick tock …

        Thanks for the compliment about my husband’s waiting room. 🙂 His office just moved & that’s a new look for his office. He wants his patients happy while they wait.
        And Jody’s book–a great read!

  10. It’s amusing to me how astonished my non-writing friends are when I tell them how long it can take for a new novelist to see her work in print. If she even sees that day. Well, now I’m being pessimistic and that’s not helpful either. They have jobs where they get what seems like speedy results for their efforts. I chose writing and like everyone here eventually realized I needed to be in for the long haul. I decided last week that I’d limit the number of times I checked my e-mails for responses. While waiting it out I’ve done book signings at numerous events with my stories in anthologies and worked on improving my novels. I now have a new writing friend I’m trying to encourage and help her to find markets for her work. Thanks, Beth, for today’s post and the advice. I love the comparison to waiting in the M.D.’s office.

    1. Good morning, Pat.
      You’ve taken a great approach to the life of a writer: You’re mentoring another writer not as far along the writing road as you. That’s time well invested while you’re in the waiting room! And you’re concentrating on what you’ve already accomplished too–also a wise choice!
      I don’t think non-writers will ever “get” us writers and how we live our lives.

  11. What a postive post, Beth. I tend to have a bit of a “woe is me” attitude when it comes to the waiting room, so you have really helped me turn that around here. Thank you!

    1. The melancholy in me is thrilled that I was able to be positive today, Michelle! I’m more of a “woe is me-er” too — but I’m trying to look at that glass and think “Half full” not “Half empty.” 🙂
      I’m learning waiting isn’t optional–but my attitude is.

  12. Great post, Beth.
    I manage my husband’s chiropractic office, and we re-named our “waiting room” the “Reception Area.” There’s reading materials about health and about God. It is a place of preparation. I joke and say it is a place to prepare you to meet your chiropractor or to meet your Maker (hopefully not too soon lol).

    Years ago, I heard Elisabeth Elliot say, “We should wait on the Lord the way a waiter waits on tables.”

    The waiting time is best spent serving and preparing, not worrying and languishing.

    1. And I forgot to mention. While the patient (or writer) is waiting, the doctor (or publisher/agent) isn’t idle. They are with other patients (clients) or are preparing themselves to meet with you. The wait isn’t intentional to cause the wait-ee distress. It’s just part of the plan.

    2. Hi, Susan,
      I appreciate you weighing on on waiting and waiting rooms. You’ve got a great perspective.
      And I like the idea of waiting being a place to prepare.
      As a writer, if you’ve completed one project, what’s the next thing you can be working on? Take a breather, congratulate yourself, and then do the next thing!

  13. Love the pictures! 🙂 Working while you wait is great advice. And it’s the easiest way to make the wait go faster. I think one reality that was hard for me to grasp was that after that door to publication opened, I thought there would be no more waiting. Hah! Turns out, there’s more waiting on the other side. 🙂

    1. Giving credit where credit is due: My husband took those photos. 🙂
      And I agree with you, Eric, the waiting never stops in the writing world … write, wait, write, wait, write wait … I like to say “Time is relative in the publishing world.”

  14. Beth, thanks for these great reminders to make the most of every opportunity (Eph. 5:16). I’ve learned so many wonderful tips from you and other published authors – this is another one to add to the list. Thanks!

    1. Donna,
      Thanks for adding the perfect scriptural point. (And I enjoyed getting a glimpse of your website last week! I’ll be back!)

  15. I’m naturally not a patient person, but is anyone? I’ve had to learn the hard way that relaxing while waiting and giving the situation to God is the only way I won’t drive myself nuts. I experienced too many sleepless nights in years past because of fretting about whatever I was waiting for at the time – job interview, a date, my submissions to be accepted. No more – I like sleeping!

    1. Question of the day: If anyone is a naturally patient person, Heather and I would like to know!
      Waiting with a wrong attitude can certainly ruin both our sleep–and our perspectives.

  16. Love the metaphor! Extending it, I have to say that I aspire to be in the waiting room, I am working towards being in the waiting room, I envy those of you in the waiting room.

    In the meantime, in real waiting rooms, I practice relaxation techniques, catch up on reading, and sometime take notes for my blog or my book.

    1. Hope,
      Your comment made me smile. 🙂
      See, there are those of us griping about being in the waiting room–and then there are others saying, “Hey, let me in!”
      Perspective–it’s a wonderful thing.
      And I like the idea of taking notes for your blog or book while you’re waiting. Very practical.

  17. Thanks for another clever post, Beth. Such fun!

    I find that immersing myself in a new project helps me minimize the Waiting Woes I used to experience when I divided my time between checking email and looking to see if the light was blinking on the answering machine. Things tend to move with the speed of a sleepy snail in the publishing world, so my time is better spent creating new stories than sitting around waiting to hear news on previously completed ones.

    1. “The Waiting Woes” — love that phrase. May I quote you, Keli?
      Doing the next thing — the new project — always helps. Checking email makes me crazy. Not that I haven’t done it, it just makes me crazy.

  18. My favorite place!! NOT. I am most definitely the most impatient person in the world. I still have no idea why I am a writer. Chalk it up to God’s sense of humor, I guess. I know though, after years of practice, that as a writer I will ALWAYS be waiting for something. Be that an email from my agent or editor, ideas for my next story, news on a possible contract, you name it. And nothing ever, ever happens quickly in this business!! So I suck it up and try to move on to the next task while I wait. I still haven’t found the solution to going through the process painlessly though.

    1. Having read your marvelous book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, I know why you’re a writer, Cathy! You know how to write a compelling story!!
      And you’ve learned the lesson: “As a writer I will ALWAYS be waiting for something.”
      It’s a tough truth, but it’s reality.

  19. Thanks, Beth! I can appreciate the analogy, since the wait always goes faster when we’re busy doing something we love in the meantime. Especially when the length of wait-time varies from one agent to another, even one season to the next!

    1. Laura,
      I think you’ve hit one of the struggles with waiting” There’s no “here’s how long the wait is going to be” guarantee. You just have to … wait.

    1. Suzanne,
      Sometimes prayer makes all the difference.
      And sometimes when I can’t find pray for myself, I go searching for a life line and ask someone else — my husband, a crit partner — to pray for me. Makes a huge difference. You don’t have to sit in the waiting room by yourself.

  20. I spend my time in the waiting room trying to learn all that I can. I’m new at the publishing thing so read every post I can get my hands on. I spend several hours a day to blogging and on my email. The encouragement, mentoring, and teaching I receive is unreal. I love you guys. RThank you for your help.
    Glenda Parker

    1. Glenda,
      You’ve got the right attitude: Keep learning while you’re waiting. Even those of us who’ve been walking the writing road for a while need to keep learning.
      And the Water Coolies, as we like to call ourselves, are an encouraging bunch for me too!

  21. HI Beth- Right now, I’m in the waiting room waiting to find out if I’ll EVER get another book contract. I guess the wait would be more tolerable if I knew the doctor (a.k.a a publisher) would come out eventually, but since that’s an if, I’m starting to get a bad attitude. thanks for the reminder to keep a cheerful attitude regardless!

    1. Sometimes it feels like that doctor (aka publisher) has slipped out the back door and gone off to play a round of golf, doesn’t it, Erin?
      Here’s the thing: I know you’re not wasting time waiting because I’ve personally been encouraged by you & I’ve seen you offering advice and tips to a lot of other writers.

      NOTE: Not all doctors golf. Just FYI. 😉

  22. To me the waiting room sifts out those who wanna write and those who pursue the passion God placed in their heart to write. If God called us to write, then while sidelined in the waiting room we’re faithful, write, and encourages other writers stuck in the waiting room with us.

    1. My husband has had patients walk out–they chose not to wait. He always apologizes because he hates that he couldn’t see them on time. But it’s their choice to wait or not. It’s also their choice to reschedule–or not to come back at all.
      That’s your point, Scot, and I agree: Are we going to pursue our passion, our calling, which includes the waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . or is the waiting going to wear is down to the point that we quit?

  23. Hey lady, See, you even encourage friends w/ the picture (the book you are reading). Just months before he died, my dad told me he thought a good book title would be The Waiting Room and how life is but a wait. Such wisdom here today, Beth. Attitude is king (or should I say queen) as we wait. Couldn’t agree more!
    ~ Wendy

    1. Wendy,
      I loved the double entendre that I achieved with those photos. So fun! And it was also fun to highlight Jody’s book–such a good read.
      And I think your dad had it right: life is but a wait.

  24. Clever, original, and unforgettable — brilliant encouraging post. Loved the models, & I knew that was Rob’s waiting room. Generated great reader feedback, too!!!

    1. Dee:
      I knew you’d recognize the waiting room! 😉
      And it’s been fun to have everyone weigh in on the topic. I knew I wasn’t the only one who had an opinion on this topic.

  25. Cute, cute post. I’ve been in the waiting room for about 5 or 6 years. I finally got a contract, but there was the pre-contract (Deal Point Memo), signed with weeks of waiting in between, then there was the actual contract. Signed. But I’m still waiting to get the signed copy back. Since this is my first book I have no idea what happens when the waiting stops and the actual publishing starts.

    1. Lucille:
      HInt: More waiting.
      But lots of celebrating and the realization that you accomplished a major dream all along the way!

  26. Beth,

    Great reminder! You know what? I LOVE the waiting room. Crazy, huh?

    I used to abhor it. But, since my first book was published, I understand how beautiful a place it can be. Waiting rooms are great spots to work on those two ugly words:platform and marketing. Yeah, I LOVE my waiting room now!

    1. Joanne,
      The next time I have to spend any time in the waiting room, do you want to go along with me? I like your attitude! Maybe we could brainstorm together. 🙂

  27. I gotta admit, I had just as much fun taking the photos for the post as I did writing the post! 😉

    1. True, Peter, true. And maybe if we all meet up in the waiting room we can turn that misery into a party … or at least get some work done. Brainstorming, anyone?

  28. I’ve learned to view every day I wait as one more day to write without a deadline or other outside pressures. From what I hear that never comes again once a contract is signed. So they are precious, each one.

  29. Very true, Lori. The “Second Book Syndrome” is also very real — wondering if you can meet the expectations others have for you.
    So the waiting room can be a very pleasant place to hang out!

  30. I’m in the waiting room now. I’ve been reading other great books while waiting for the rejections to pour in. 🙂 We all know this is apart of the process. I’ve decided to re-read the two manuscripts I’ve written/edited/shared with beta readers in an effort to see if there’s anything else that needs changing. Then I think it’ll be time to begin submitting my second round of queries. 🙂

    1. Rachel,
      Yes, waiting is part of the process–and re-reading your manuscripts is a smart thing to do while you’re waiting. And who knows? You may be one step ahead of the revision letter when you get an acceptance, not a rejection!

  31. When I think of the waiting room, I think of that great story by Flannery O’Connor “Revelation”. One of the best stories ever and she epitomizes the weird waiting room experience.

    1. Arlee,
      Must go read this right now. Oh! I found it online!

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