On writing and waiting

I regularly get calls from people who want us to publish their book. They must have been scanning a directory or googling “Publishers in the Philippines,” and our name, OMF Lit, comes up.

Most of the people I talk to are eager to see their work in print. The first line to meImage usually goes,

“Can you help me publish my book?”

Depending on the amount of work staring at me, I give either a short or a detailed answer on how writers’ thoughts are translated into printed words. I would also casually mention how much time it takes for an average book to finally see print. Almost always, the response would be,

Ay ang tagal pala (Oh, it would take that long!).”

No writer worth his salt will say that writing is easy. No, it is not. Writing, in its essence, is rewriting. It’s taking a mound of ideas and, like Michelangelo, shaping it until you can see your David.  For one to become a great writer,  he needs more than raw talent to catapult him to success.  He needs to be ready to wait. And wait some more.

It took J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer of one of the greatest epics ever, The Lord of the Rings, 17 years to finish his masterpiece.  Can you imagine what the world would have missed if he gave up on the second year? Or upon reaching the 16th year, thought to himself that he was merely wasting his time?

The Bible is filled with stories of people who waited. Abraham waited for the fulfillment of God’s promise, a son, for 25 years.  Joseph had to go from job to job, with some prison time stuck in between, before he became Chief Steward in all of Egypt.  His ascent to power also involved waiting, which I estimate to be more than 25 years too. And who can forget Noah? To build an ark when the earth has not experienced any flooding yet? It must’ve taken him incredible faith and patience to finish the task. Did you ever wonder how long it took him? Let me just point out that the first time Noah was mentioned, in Genesis 5:32, he was 500. The next time his age comes up, it’s in Genesis 7:6, when he finally entered the ark at age 600.

While my professional identity is tied to editing books from M–F, 9–6 pm weekly, I find the most fulfillment in writing. I think this stems from every person’s innate desire to be heard. Hey, I think  I have something worthwhile to say. There’s this story in my head that needs to be told. An idea that needs to be validated, or denied. Can you spare some to time to listen to me by reading what I’ve written?

Going back to the idea of waiting, I too, have done my share of waiting—waiting for the writing muse to visit me, waiting to hear from my editor/publisher, waiting for the next big idea. Life is a series of waiting. No wonder a quiet melancholy stabs me while I’m at airport terminals. This—the comings and goings, and all the waitings—is life.

I know it pays to wait because I have seen the rewards of waiting that the authors I have worked with received.  One author’s manuscript gathered dust for 3 years before we finally published it, which became a surprise bestseller. To date, it has sold more than 70,000 copies since it was first published last October 2010. Relatively speaking, that’s like reaching Twilight bestseller status here in the Philippines.

God calls us to faithfulness. If He gives us something to do, our job is to keep at it until it’s done. The outcome of our hard work is out of our hands. We can apply this to writing, among the many other things in our lives that make us richer—and I mean that in the metaphorical sense.

No matter how many rewrites it takes for our story, poem, essay, article, or any other piece of writing to be considered done, let us not lose heart. Writing is hard—sometimes, “backbreakingly” hard. You exchange sleep for time spent in front of your computer trying your best to string words together. You disrobe of your pride and privacy in pursuit of transparency. Unfortunately, even with all these sacrifices, not everyone will like your work. You will go through periods of self-doubt and battle feelings of rejection.

But if you think that you have been called and gifted by God to write, then write with the determination of a runner on his last marathon. And let us all be encouraged by what the writer of 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, the apostle Paul, said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The harvest might be tens of thousands of copies sold and enough royalties to enable you to retire early. Or it might be the changed life of one stranger who was inspired by what you wrote.

Writing is a silent yet powerful way to change the world. I, as a Filipino, believe that for we do not have a writer for a national hero for nothing.

10 Responses to “On writing and waiting”
  1. What an encouraging piece, Beng! I’ve been in blog-ernation for some time now… waiting for that right moment when to write again…

    • Beng Alba says:

      Dear Jude, don’t ever, ever give up on your writing. I am eagerly standing by with you, waiting for God to say, “It’s time.” And that time, my friend, is when He will open the door for readers from all over to come rushing in and welcome you into their world. Meanwhile, hang in there. God knows best when. 🙂

  2. marife palima says:

    Beautifully written, Beng. will share this with my daughter who is a Journalism major. And Oh! I suddenly miss our Comm Team days:)

  3. carlotta says:

    hay. sometimes waiting can really be tiring. thanks for the encouragement!! 🙂

    oh btw, i made a new blog, but it’s not about travel and food anymore. i tried not to throw myself in all parts of the www (social networks) anymore but blogging just won’t let go. hahaha

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