Kenneth Atchity's Tome Tender Guest Post: How Long Can I Wait? My Life in the Waiting Room
Writers ask me that all the time, becoming impatient and anxious that their story is taking so long to be a book or a movie. My answer surprises them:
Don’t wait at all.
Waiting is a massive waste of time, and lead to depression, existential despair and who knows what else. Do something while you wait. Plant another seed, cultivate it, train it to grow straight. And while it’s taking its sweet time to bud and then bloom, do something else. Start a new book!
Back in the Waiting Room in the sixties, I reviewed a great book by Barry Stevens: Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself. Every project has its own clock and will happen when that clock reaches the appointed hour. Other than keeping that project on track the best you can, there’s nothing you can do—other than financing it yourself (a serious option, by the way), to speed up that clock. By the nature of things, that clock is secret, which means extra frustration for the creator—unless you refuse to wait.
Recently I, and my dear producing partner Norman Stephens, produced a sweet little Christmas movie, Angels in the Snow. I had only been trying to get that movie produced for twenty years! Sold it to TNN once, came close to a deal at Hallmark another time. What was I doing for twenty years? Producing nearly thirty other films, managing hundreds of books, writing and publishing ten of my own, playing tennis, traveling, having a wonderful life. Not waiting.
Waiting makes me neurotic. If I allowed myself to express my neurosis, as many writers have not yet learned not to do, I would drive those involved in making my story into a book or film crazy—and risk losing their support. The question I hate hearing the most, “What’s going on?” is one I keep myself from asking. My job, when I’m in charge of moving a story forward, is to “get the ball out of my court” as efficiently and as soon as possible. Then, on that project, I have to wait for it to be returned to my court. Very few actual events occur along the way, leaving a huge gap of dead time in between them, like super novae separated by vast time years of space. But it’s not dead time if you use it for something else creative.
If the glacial pace of the creative business fills you with dread, you’re in the wrong business or you’re dealing with it the wrong way. Don’t wait. Do. As the great photographer Ansel Adams put it: “Start doing more. It’ll get rid of all those moods you’re having.”
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