The Wait is Over

There is a lot of waiting involved in the writing life. There is the waiting to hear from agents when you are beginning the publishing journey. There is the waiting to hear from editors. And then, when a book is finally accepted for publication, there is the waiting for the final product to actually appear on a bookshelf somewhere. And during all this waiting there are numerous opportunities for the writer to dismember his or her confidence. The imagination that summoned the book can swiftly cut your belief in its right to exist at the knees as it spins its nearsighted eye out into the future seeking an answer it cannot know. The words, “I’ll be happy when,” are the end of happiness. It is such a tempting belief, though. The future is infinitely pliable, so why not imagine a time when events have aligned themselves to your advantage? Yet this very thought - that when the agents says, “Yes”, when the editor offers that advance - is admitting a kind of defeat. That the defeat comes disguised as optimism does not make it any less dangerous.

Because the imagination never rests—like the water feeding your spigot, it is always flowing, whether the hose is on or off. No matter what happens, no matter how large the advance, no matter how prestigious the agent, the imagination will find something else for you to worry about if you allow it. If you have been waiting for that something good to happen, and then it actually happens, you have spent days or months between wishing and having training yourself like a Pavlov dog to believe that your own peace of mind is determined by your circumstances. Because your peace of mind is never based on any event, the thing you wished for will arrive and you will discover peace of mind did not arrive with it. Oh, the catastrophic disappointment. Life, we lament in these hours, is indeed meaningless, for nothing will ever make me truly happy.

It is a matter of attention. Your focus is like a lighthouse beam. If you feel it shining out toward the future, scanning for that perfect circumstance, pull it back. Pull it back to the very moment you occupy. It is often as simple as that. Whatever events come, you will be all right—but you must keep your beam where it belongs. We are not waiting for anything. Waiting is a fiction of the restless imagination—as false that the infant’s belief that his mother has vanished during his first game of hide and seek.

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