My two year old daughter picked out a book for me to read, and as she handed it to me, I felt my brain groan thinking about having to read this story again. But not from reading it to my daughter, but having heard it at nearly every graduation and graduation party for the better part of 20 years. Dr. Seuss’s Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
It is interesting though, the book takes on a different tone when I read it to my daughter. I guess I can finally put myself in the shoes of all those teachers who’d read it to kids like me when I was growing up. There’s such a hope and all you want is for your child to do what they love to do. And I’m reading this book to a little girl who doesn’t understand what it even means… and I’m getting choked up and finding so much truth in this book I felt was so rote.
The part that stood out the most in this reading was…
The Waiting Place.
We can all empathize with the snags of life—the things we can’t avoid and situations we cannot win—but it is harder to think about this place where people just… wait.
For those of you who haven’t read it or it has been a while, the main character is roaming in a sort of wilderness:
…headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
In classic Dr. Seuss style, there are a lot of silly examples in there, but a wholly terrifying reality there:
The Waiting Place is everywhere.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I swing by The Waiting Place far too often. I just shook off the shackles from this place in the last month. I’ve written a few times now that the writing part was daunting to me. So I was waiting. Waiting for what? I’m not sure, but I know I wasn’t getting anything done because I was waiting.
After publishing my first novel in 2004, I took some of my writing to a critique group (as an aside, if you have already published something, don’t ask for critique). Once they were done, I decided that I would learn more about writing. I read books and wrote and rewrote scenes… but I never did anything with that next version because I was waiting until I was “just a little better.” That time never quite came and that series is still waiting.
And how many of us fall into the trap of “writer’s block.” And we wait for inspiration like it just grows from the ground. But it doesn’t and when we are in that Waiting Place, we’re not doing anything.
3 Things You Can Do To Avoid The Waiting Place
Simple answer: stop waiting for whatever it is before you start trying to reach your dreams.
- Set goals – These do not have to be huge goals. In fact, I would recommend breaking down your huge goals into manageable smaller goals. For instance, I have a HUGE goal to finish my graphic novel by the end of the year. I broke that down and set myself a goal for finishing the pencil sketches /storyboard by the end of June. And even smaller than that, I set myself a page count to reach each day. Every HUGE project has little, incremental, acheiveable steps that you can use as goals. This makes it all more manageable.
- Get an accountability partner – Another comics artist and I were talking the other day and I basically let him know that he was now my accountability partner and that I was his for our creative projects. Each morning, we ask each other what we accomplished. Taking your goals and moving them outside of your brain is an instant boost to productivity because there is someone asking about your progress.
- Make time – I know for myself, this is a huge one. I took Jon Acuff’s advice and started working on comics first thing in the morning. Michael Regina works after his family is in bed. But maybe binge-watching every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Game of Thrones isn’t the best use of your time right now. There’s a good chance that looking at how you spend your time could end in your having some time in your schedule to get your junk done.
The Waiting Place is the most dangerous place. It’s a place of blame (time, publishers, family) and of complacency and it will suck you in until you die if you let it. If you want to write a book or make a comic or whatever your creative endeavor, you need to stop waiting for it to happen to you.
Set goals. Get an accountability partner. Make time.
If I can do it with a full time job and two kids, and countless others with even fuller and busier schedules than that can do it too… So can you.