A friend who makes her living writing freelance nonfiction told me once that she wasn\u2019t comfortable unless she had a dozen proposals out in the market. She needed a dozen balls in the air to feel secure that one would land in her hand.\r\n\r\nFor me, a fiction-writer, the analogy feels more like a game of tennis where I suspect I\u2019m the only one playing. I\u2019ve got my basket of balls by my feet, and I lob them over the net, but there\u2019s no one visible on the other side. There\u2019s no court over there either, just a dark abyss. I hear the ball as it hits my racket. I don\u2019t hear it land.\u00a0As writers we have to be able to juggle, and to hit balls out to the industry with increasingly good aim. Equally importantly, though, we have to be able to wait.\r\n\r\nAuthor Alison Jean Lester.\r\n\r\nSometimes it\u2019s only four days, but a very long four days. For example, my agent had a meeting one Friday that was likely to have a big impact on my future, but because I\u2019m in Singapore and he\u2019s in New York, I was asleep when the lunch took place. His weekends are sacrosanct, and he exercises every morning, not getting to his desk until my early bedtime. Plus, difficult as it is for me to admit, I\u2019m neither the only nor the most important writer in his stable. As a result, I didn\u2019t know about the result of the meeting until my Tuesday morning.\r\n\r\nSometimes it\u2019s four months. That\u2019s usually how long the various journals tell us to wait in their submission guidelines: \u201cIf you have not received a response from us within 120 days, we will be happy to receive email enquiries and will do our best to respond. Please do not call the office.\u201d Sometimes journals beg more patience: \u201cWriters are welcome to query after six months; please do not query until that point.\u201d\r\n\r\nSometimes it\u2019s eighteen months. I signed the contract for Lillian on Life in July 2013, and it was in very good shape; the editing process didn\u2019t take long at all. It didn\u2019t come out until January 2015.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAll of the above is the good news.\r\n\r\nThe bad news is that sometimes it\u2019s forever. We wait forever, and ever, and ever, because sometimes there\u2019s only silence. There are journals who make no promises regarding getting back to you. Ditto agencies. In these cases, we have to decide how long we want to wait before acting.\r\n\r\nIn all cases, we must be patient. Resistance is futile.\r\n\r\nWhile writing this I\u2019ve been thinking about the card game called patience. I\u2019ve played patience, and I\u2019ve never found that it challenged my calm or my self-control. On the contrary. It passes the time, when something else is making me climb the walls.\r\n\r\nSo here\u2019s my recommendation to anyone with precious balls of writing arcing silently into the abyss: Develop the game of patience that works for you. Here are a few suggestions to shuffle through.\r\nMake a submissions chart\r\n(No doubt many of you already do, and I\u2019m happy to have your indulgent pats on the head for figuring out how helpful this is after over 20 years of effort.) Put the date of submission on the chart, and then the date after which you are allowed to check in with the editor about it. Even better, put a reminder in your calendar so that you don\u2019t have to check the chart at all.\r\nEmbrace simultaneous submissions\r\nSometimes we spend so much energy hoping to be published in a few selected journals that we limit our chances of being published anywhere. Back when I first started sending short story submissions out, there was no Internet, so it was difficult to know what avenues were available and what sort of writing they preferred. Today we have no excuse for not sending our work far and wide. By all means keep sending stuff to your holy grail, but populate your submissions chart with a range of targets.\r\nGet on Twitter\r\nI can\u2019t believe I\u2019m saying this, after unequivocally telling my publishers less than a year ago that I would never tweet. The key for me in feeling comfortable there lies in not using it to get attention on Twitter so much as to learn more about the creative writing world and to make interesting contacts. I only follow writers and literary organizations, and I have read more short stories by writers I hadn\u2019t heard of in journals I hadn\u2019t heard of in the last three months than I had in the previous three years. Twitter is where I learned about Writer\u2019s Edit, in fact, and now look!\r\nWrite\r\nThis is the trump card. I find I only get unbearably agitated about the silence if I\u2019m not working on something. I\u2019m currently waiting for my agent\u2019s feedback before sending my new manuscript to my publishers. Sending it to them will take about five minutes. Then there will be more waiting while they read it, and no guarantee that they will read it right away. At times like this I try and zoom out to the big picture. To the enormous picture. I zoom out and out and out to get a bird\u2019s eye view of the lifetime of writing I\u2019m planning for myself, and from way up there I can see the few months of waiting as a mere blink on the timeline. I sit down at my desk and get to work.