On Waiting Productively, And Why There Isn’t A Word For That

On Waiting Productively, And Why There Isn't A Word For ThatI’m not the world’s most patient person. This is an understatement, because to tell you how impatient I am would take too long. But I was forced to spend the last fortnight in a paroxysm of waiting. It made me think about what I could learn from it, because I write a blog, so I go around trying to turn trite nothings into even triter truisms so I can beat the Internet with them until it is bloody and battered and begging for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

Only one of the things I was waiting for was important. It was a thing of worry, and waiting for news on that score has been about as pleasurable as an audio clip of a Kardashian discussing economic reform.

But because it’s easier to worry about the small stuff than anything which really matters, particularly something out of my control, I resorted to bashing the calm out of the rest of life instead.

You Can Worry While You Wait…

First on my hitlist for senseless wait worry was the blog. I’d been notified that one of my blog posts was about to be Freshly Pressed, but not when. I thought it’d be within a few days, but then it took 8 days to appear, by which time I had convinced myself that they’d forgotten about me and I should really just slink back into Maudlinsville and stay put and wait for the apocalypse to come like the good Irishwoman I am.

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Then I decided that I couldn’t wait much longer to hear back from agents and publishers, because I will be old one day (if I make it that far). I therefore felt I should ramp up my novel submissions to a degree which would normally be lampooned on this blog.

It could have been disastrous. The equivalent of mass-mailing a form letter saying ‘I dare you to not publish me! Go on, I dare ya!’ Fortunately, before it was too late, I was pressed freshly, and the resulting Inbox explosions kept me out of trouble.

…Or You Can Be Productive

Then it occurred to me that the very process of waiting might be like a fire under one’s arse. If it were a chemical reaction, waiting would be the catalyst. Because nothing will make a person try harder, and think bigger, than the hard-core impotence of waiting.

In my period of enforced standby, I got through jobs which only rarely get done, and rarer still get done properly, including window cleaning; Inbox clearing; a copy edit on a novel which involved searching for the words ‘had’ and ‘been’ in order to drag it out of the colloquial Irish distant past into a more legible and immediate present; and sewing a ribbon back onto a dressing-gown on the very day it came off. (I know. Unprecedented.)

I also did accounts, an underwear inventory, and my eyebrows. I was a seething freight train of productivity. And all because I was forced to wait, and I couldn’t sit with myself.

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The funny thing is that I can’t find a word for productive, positive waiting. All the synonyms have negative connotations. Idle. Loiter. Delay; lurk; procrastinate; dawdle.

I would now like to change that, by honouring Productive Waiting with tales of some of the world’s most successful waiters, and I don’t mean people who know who’s having the scallops.

1. The Princess: Kate Middleton

I’d give her her proper title, but to be fair, only the Telegraph or the Times calls her Duchess. She waited so hard, the kindness-free tabloids called her ‘Waity Katy’ back in the mid-noughties. And what did she do with her time? She learned how to be the most inoffensive royal ever, that’s what. Now she’s the perfect diplomat, role model, wife and mother, even managing (on the surface, anyway) to deal with the hideous pressure of the press and public expectations. Now that’s what I call essential prep.

2. The Politician: Barack Obama

So you spend 6 years fighting to be President when you’re already President, and only 12-18 months doing any actual Presidenting. Regardless of what your politics might be, you can’t deny most US Presidents are only able to do their job in the 3rd year of their 2nd term, when rivals are too busy eyeing up the shiny new prize to bother with the old.

Obama’s memoir The Audacity of Hope (a dreadful title which sounds like a manual for an Irish night out) hints at his patience, but he does seem to be an able waiter, productively getting all of his ducks in a row before… actually, I don’t want to finish this with a gun metaphor, but you know what I mean.

3. The Writer: Donal Ryan

On Waiting Productively, And Why There Isn't A Word For That

Irish author Donal Ryan is a master of waitery. He was rejected 47 times before he eventually discovered he would be published by the first publisher he ever submitted his manuscript to. Moreover, his second book was famously published before his first, because nobody picked up on The Thing About December until The Spinning Heart took the world by storm: so he spent his waiting time on the first book writing another book which won ALL the prizes. I have a soft spot for this talented man because he’s from just the other side of the lake from me, but he’s also funnier than stand-up when he’s speaking – seriously, go see him if you can.

4. The Country: Ireland

I’m calling this one anticipative pessimism. Ireland’s used to waiting around for stuff. We hang around, chilling our exposed arses off in northerly winds, looking enviously at the Mediterraneans with their healthy glows and diets and the Germans with their mechanised public services and the Americans with their rich paranoid borders, knowing that eventually, if we doff our caps enough, and keep making butter, drugs, airplane mechanics and – um – “Culture”, we’ll be all right.

And we are, generally. One minute we’re the naughty child: the next, we’re the kid everyone hates because other mothers say ‘why can’t you be more like Johnny?’ Neither is desirable, granted. But each is only a phase. What goes around comes around, and we’re going nowhere. And it’s raining again anyway, so what’s the point?

On Waiting Productively, And Why There Isn't A Word For That

In conclusion, achievement can be the upside of waiting. For a writer in particular, it can mean the difference between getting published, and annoying industry professionals with stuff which just isn’t ready. Does it make us like waiting any better? No, of course not. Waiting sucks. But we may as well do something during it, if we can’t do anything about it.


  62 comments for “On Waiting Productively, And Why There Isn’t A Word For That

  1. August 18, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. August 18, 2015 at 8:49 am

    On the other hand, the Inuit have this wonderful word “Iktsuarpok” to describe how you keep going outside, again and again and again, to check if a visitor you’ve been waiting for has arrived yet.


    Liked by 5 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 8:55 am

      I should’ve been born Inuit, obviously. That’s what I’m talking about, Mel. Keep ’em coming…


  3. August 18, 2015 at 10:11 am

    I also did an underwear inventory recently. It felt like an act of procrastination when I started, but by the end I could only describe it as ‘time well spent’.

    Liked by 3 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 10:52 am

      I agree completely, James. When everything is pants, it’s time to sort out those pants. That’s my philosophy, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ali Isaac
    August 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Lol! I did the underwear inventory thing too, while waiting for the never ending school holidays to end. I tell you, that’s one looooong wait, I’ve been waiting for that since June!

    Only joking, I’ll miss the darlings when they’re gone, cos then I’ll have to do some serious writing, instead of dawdling with it. Scary!

    Liked by 3 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 11:27 am

      You forgot that when they go back to school, I’ll be sending the heavies round to stand over you with a very, very large stick, Ali. No pressure. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ali Isaac
        August 18, 2015 at 11:38 am

        Make sure it’s carved in ogham and infused with magic, cos that’s what it’s gonna take…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. August 18, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    John Milton wrote circa 1652 (On His Blindness)

    “And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait.”

    Way ahead of his time and an encouragement to all bloggers…….

    Liked by 3 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Adrian, again, how beautiful is that? I’m going to have to start sending you my posts before I publish them. Then you can send me on its poetic match which I’ll add to the end, pretending that it was my idea all along, due to my extensive knowledge of essential poetry for everyday living. You don’t mind, do you? Ah, thanks. I didn’t think you would.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. August 18, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    Another corker from Ms. Sparling – all good things come to she who waits, madam! 😉 And what’s wrong with dawdling anyway? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      There would be nothing wrong with dawdling, Jan, if the word hadn’t been maligned beyond all recognition by primary schoolteachers. Along with idling, which used to be a wonderfully poetic concept. But in this country, you’d swear dawdling and idling were on a par with spitting and match-fixing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm

        ROFLMAO – OK I’ll give you that one (as I had nuns at primary school and know where you’re coming from…) >< How about daydreaming? That's how THE best books happen after all! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 18, 2015 at 4:52 pm

          Oh, dreaming is definitely not allowed, Jan, not by nuns, anyway. Dangerously optimistic, dreaming.


  7. August 18, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    I was going to leave a comment but am waiting to see if something pithy comes to me before I do…. nope, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I’ll wait some more and get back to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Haha, I see what you did there. You’re in the mirth queue (for when I finish work). Please take a ticket. Your comment is important to us. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. August 18, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I’d include myself on that waiting list of yours. More than once I’ve noted to my kid as we stand in yet another line at the grocery store that I have a mysterious knack for choosing the one line out of ten that moves like paint drying because the customer ahead of us has a problem with his cried card, and the manager be called over, phone calls placed etc. or she is a slow, methodical, fastidious counter of her change. I’m serious: if I pick a line with only one person ahead of me, the line with seven will be empty by the time I get to the register.

    Your observations re: Obama (and other presidents) are so true. It’s only when they are declared “lame ducks” in their last year that they get to the good stuff. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    A belated congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Now relax, go outside and smell the flowers, then get on with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      I’m forever in that line, too! Curses. We should swap photographs so that we can avoid each other. If we were to meet in a queue, it could cause a quantum explosion somewhere.

      But in the meantime, yes, I’m off to skip in the sunshine, while we have it (cloudy forecast tomorrow)


      • August 18, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Oh, did I forgot to mention those times when the cashier and the customer know but haven’t seen each other in “so long” and they simply must catch up?

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 18, 2015 at 8:03 pm

          Oh, I normally bang their heads together when that happens. Puts them off each other for some reason…


  9. August 18, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I think it was the ribbon on the dressing gown that really brought it home to me how much you are waiting – hope whatever it is happens for you soon! And yes, waiting is so much a part of writing, isn’t it? Possibly the most difficult part of all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I wish it was only writing-related stuff I was waiting for, Helen, it wouldn’t matter if that was the case. No, it’s waiting for real-life bad news that’s the stinker. Still, that is life, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. annerallen
    August 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Brilliant. You’re so right about President Obama! I love this blog. I’m going to give you a shout-out on my blog next Sunday!

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 18, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      Now that is news which brightens my waiting room, Anne! A shout-out on your most esteemed blog would be massive. I’m one of your blog’s biggest fans, you know. I know this, because there was a competition, and I had them all disqualified. Sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. August 18, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    If there’s no word for productive waiting you should make one up (and then license it to earn a few bob everytime it’s used on Twitter.)

    Another form of active waiting that doesn’t have a name is that block of time you have before you start something such as a journey. The time is too long to sit and do nothing, but not long enough to do anything more productive than adjust the angle of your hat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 18, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      There are so many words we need to invent, Chris. And not only that, we need to decide which language to make them up in. For instance, productive waiting should possibly be German, whereas hat-adjustment waiting sounds more French, as long as a shrug is included (garment or gesture). Also, I’m open to suggestions for the sort of passive waiting where you really don’t care what the hell you’re waiting for or if it ever turns up at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm

        That passive waiting sounds like the waiting equivalent of, dare I say it, supermarket dithering in which people wander around in some kind of somnambulistic state hoping something worth buying will magically appear in aisle four.

        And that supermarket somnambulism leads me to think about the millions of old men who follow their wives around shops, looking for all the world like ghosts (Oh Jesus, you’ve got me started now.)

        And can someone explain why a man pushing a shopping trolley is always accompanied by a woman with one hand on the trolley as if man and trolley will go berserk if she lets go?

        I’m off to write a new dictionary…

        God what other non-existent words do we need?

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 18, 2015 at 10:22 pm

          I foresee 73 blog posts alone out of this… lists of words we need. You know the site unwords.com? That’s for words which should be but aren’t (my favourite was sarchasm – the gulf of understanding between someone who utters a sarcastic remark and the person who doesn’t get it).

          But it seems we need a reverse predictionary, to list the meanings of words we don’t have yet. As an added bonus, smarty-pantses can get their kicks by smugly informing us about words which do already exist but only they knew about. Score!

          Liked by 1 person

          • August 18, 2015 at 11:12 pm

            Good site. Deifenestration – to throw all talk of god out the window.

            The reverse predictionary could be a lifetime’s work with no outward rewards to show for it. A bit like self-publishing I suppose..

            Liked by 1 person

  12. T.odduffey
    August 18, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Brilliant! I know over a few novel and screenplay writers, and they all have this dark cloud of wait-apathy over them. I think it’s where new ideas are formed, actually. So the word might be ideating: thinking about action, while not doing anything. Or thought momentum? Frustrated meditating. Something like that. Glad to hear you thought a way out, though! The mind is a wonderful thing to have, and a terrible thing to waste.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks, Todd. I suppose the point is what we achieve while we wait, rather than not doing anything. Turning that nervous, useless energy into a frenzy of disgustingly fabulous achievement with which to lord it over one’s friends and sicken one’s enemies. And eventually, of course, world domination. But you knew that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Todd Duffey Writes on Things
        August 18, 2015 at 11:15 pm

        And still it rings true! Keep it up, Miss S! The world needs more truth, especially when it comes to the human nature with which we ALL share!

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 18, 2015 at 11:19 pm

          Ah, I’ll do my best. But you know what it’s like. Very hard to organise a military coup and tell the truth at the same time 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • Todd Duffey Writes on Things
            August 19, 2015 at 2:34 am

            Hahaha! Touche!

            Liked by 1 person

  13. tbrpiledotcom
    August 19, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Here’s hoping your bad news isn’t as bad as you fear, Tara. Waiting is the worst bit – once you know, you can hopefully put coping and remedial mechanisms in place if you need to. The fear of news is often much worse than the news itself, but if you want us, just ask. And write, write, write.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Clare, and thanks for your kindness… the fear of bad news is the scourge of the calm and the anxious alike. In the meantime, I’m going to be able to shoot a movie through my sparkling windows, and hopefully I’ll get some more editing done too.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. August 19, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Any news? Are you still waiting? I’ve never done an underwear inventory in me life…but then again Jimmy likes the edible ones , so me drawers (scuse de pun hun) are usually quite empty 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 19, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      Little enough news now Bernie Rose Violet, and what’s coming is inconclusive. Lots of waiting in it yet I’d say, sadly. Can I recommend cheese strings for Jimmy? Just as good as G-strings without the resulting sugar coma.


  15. August 24, 2015 at 2:09 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. August 24, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Tara, the word I have for productive waiting is pregnant. I felt so frustrated when I was pregnant, especially when I was banned from driving and sporty things that I adore because of blood pressure issues. I complained bitterly about this and my wise mother declared that I was doing a very important job nurturing the baby. Sometimes these things should be obvious (bump) but we tend to see passed them in our manic impatience. It wasn’t impatience to hold the baby in my case just to get out of what felt like suspended animation. Mind you, I wrote what I consider to be the best social research report of my career during that time, in the two hours a day the doc allowed. It was an elastic kind of two hours!
    Very impressed with your FP. Well done and well deserved.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 24, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Pregnant is an absolutely splendiferous word, Jean, and the perfect word for this scenario. At the risk of being shot for the worst pun this year, I am declaring you a Jean-ius.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 24, 2015 at 7:44 pm

        It’s a lot better than ‘hygiene, spell it with Jays,’ which still lingers.

        Liked by 2 people

  17. August 26, 2015 at 3:57 am

    Sorry, Tara but I have to steal your thunder, here. If you are talking impatience, I believe I am the most impatient person to have ever walked this planet. Impatience is my middle name. Sadly, not only am I impatient but I am also impulsive. Sometimes the impatience and impulsiveness pays off but more often than not, I get myself into hot water and find myself back-pedalling mighty quickly. So the affliction is double edged.
    Wasn’t it John Lennon who said something along the lines – life is what happens while we are waiting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 26, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Good grief, Gina, what were your parents thinking? Have you siblings with similar unconventional middle names? Hopefully nothing too damaging. I knew a girl called Incontinence once.
      I agree with John Lennon. In fact, I might move permanently to an airport or a popular theme park in order to turbo boost the waiting gases.


  18. August 27, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Tara, you made me laugh!

    Well, I’m happy to hear about Donal Ryan, because I’m subbing too and after a dozen rejections I was thinking to just leave it for a while and think to something else. But maybe I should wait to have as many rejections as he had before thinking about somehting else 😉
    I am writing and revising in the meanwhile, so I am productive, right?

    Yours is a very positive way to think at waiting. I suppose sometimes that can save your mental health 😉

    I hope the important news you were waiting for came and it was a good one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 27, 2015 at 10:09 am

      I think as long as submissions are targeted to the right people, authors can continue ad infinitum. Although if the revisions are considerable in the process, it might indicate it wasn’t ready to go out in the first place! That’s the main risk and I’m pretty sure we all foul up on that one. As for the important news I was waiting for… well. Unfortunately it was bad news I was waiting for, so I’ll just leave it at that.

      Liked by 1 person

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