Philosophy of Writing – 13 – Waiting

Posted on August 13, 2012 by


Writing about waiting is writing about nothing. I can wax lyrical all I like about negative space but I can’t meaningfully describe a vacuum.

The brain isn’t fond of lacks, naughts, loves or negatives. Blog posts that catch writers mid-suspension list symptoms of a human brain occupying non-coordinates:

  • insecurity – my writing is awful
  • egomania – my writing is the best
  • listlessness – what’s the point
  • flapping – must do something
  • irritability – fuck off
  • dependency – don’t leave me alone
  • apathy – doesn’t matter
  • anxiety – nothing else matters

Note parity: symptoms of waiting reflect both potential states of Shrödinger’s Query post-collapse of its wave function (rejection seen here in italics).

Similarly, suggested cures are (same key as above):

  • let yourself take a break
  • push yourself to write more


What is to be done? Perhaps when a symptom takes hold, the author should treat with the appropriate cure – and therefore achieve a balance between potential futures. But both diagnosis and cure are dependent upon the suspended wave collapsing, and each is only true if not the other. In my experience, this practice only results in wilder mood changes – like a child pumping her legs on a swing – because indulging depression with inaction and mania with toil only serves to positively reinforce them.

Opposing treatments (forcing yourself to write despite listlessness, for example, or taking a nap when you just know you’ll land that contract) aren’t likely to stick and tend to randomise mood swings.

But radioactive decay and agents both operate according to a true random schedule: collapse will occur – when is uncertain. You’re not even waiting, really: the truth of the universe is that you’re rejected and you aren’t. There’s no speed of collapse because if the occurrence is truly random, speed can never be calculated until after the fact – and there is no after the fact until after the fact. You can’t know when, you unlucky thing, because there is no “when”. But brains aren’t fond of quanta; they like to think in terms of time passing rather than new universes being created on top of old ones.

I don’t have any reasoned advice but I’ll pass along anecdotal recipes in the hope that nonsense will trump nothingness:

  • assume you’ll get a positive answer and be a great success, but never declare that opinion to anybody
  • send yourself to sleep with grandiose daydreams
  • co-habitate with a talkative cat
  • natural beauty is very soothing, especially running water
  • learn to appreciate sleep, even if you never get any
  • empty business districts and other abandoned architecture inspires awe and terror