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The Waiting Game

Guy waiting on bench

I wait and I wait and I daydream and begin imagining and then I wait some more and soon the imagining becomes something real, something concrete. I stand up and walk around this concrete thing, puffing like a chimney that signals someone is home, in this place where creation is sparked, fanned, and fed. But I am careful not to burn this place down, as I too am a guest in this place, as we all are, and we must pay our respects.

And so I tread carefully around my concrete something that came from the imagining. And I wait and I wait for more glory to happen, for my concrete to turn into something more than a block, something with lines and curves and peaks and valleys, contours of characters and actions, interactions, sacrifices made. I take another deep breath and do some more waiting while I walk the perimeter of my yard, pick up a shovel, chop the hard compact dirt into fluffy mounds, and then saturate these mounds with fresh water, fresh water that will soon be in short supply. And I fill the pool, too, because you never know. The short supply could happen sooner than expected.

But I don’t care because I have something concrete, with characters who are motivated, just like I am, to change my fucking circumstances, and take a stand not just for myself, but for something else, something bigger than me. I watch as embers expand and smoke drifts into the atmosphere waiting for this emotional moment to resonate. And it has to resonate if my something concrete and heroic is up against a motherfucker who is something even more concrete and even more heroic within the framework of his own history, his own legacy, and the people that would step with him into another time zone, if there was another time zone, and there is one. Because I created it.

And then I sent it to my agent.

waiting-wordle

So now it’s back to the waiting. The waiting. I sit hand in hand with the kind of anxiety that usually wraps its arms around you in the doctor’s office while you wait for the doctor to arrive with his verdict. You try not to think about it, you try to distract yourself with other thoughts. But there it is again, every 7 minutes or so if you are lucky. My concrete something that is going to change the world lies buried within a stack of other concrete somethings that may or may not change the world, or make it laugh really hard, make it blow up from the inside out, or make it rethink how far technology and the evolution of science might take us. The stories in the stack are all good and all of these other writers whose names are lost in the pile are waiting, and pacing, and watching chimney smoke, and staying up at night, and anxiously rattling their feet on the floor, struggling with the impulse to make a phone call, or two, or take back their magnificent sculpture altogether because that’ll show him. Sometimes during the waiting I have an urge to surrender to my old ways, my more desperate ways, and give myself away to people who will not see or care about the curves and lines and the peaks and the valleys because all they want is the concrete thing with a catchy name and a good poster, and a yes from them might bring a sharp moment of elation, like the moment you rip open the biggest gift at your birthday party, followed by long fall into permanent regret because it’s not exactly what you imagined it was.

This is what happens in the waiting. The waiting sucks. The waiting makes you question everything. Your story. Yourself. Your worthiness to even be here in the first place. But the waiting can do more than put harmless thoughts in your head. If you consider thoughts harmless. The waiting can get you to do things you wouldn’t normally do: obsessive things like leaving notes in your agent’s mailbox. Or slipping your pages into their kid’s backpack, breaking into their car and inserting a CD into their stereo with the complete reading of your book by Morgan Freeman. But none of those thoughts will actually make their way to reality because you know you won’t be read after that. Ever.

The Waiting Post it

So it’s back to the waiting, the creative waiting, the re-reading, the re-writing, the list of other titles your thing could be called, the list of other stories it could be compared to, although yours is much more original, the poster you made showing how great your something concrete can look when it’s up on a screen. It’s all child’s play, it’s all shit you do to win the approval of your parents, your teachers, your mentors, men, women, fathers, surrogate fathers, the one person whose approval I desperately need or my life is lost, my spirit crushed, my future a foggy haze of who knows what. And that’s when it usually hits me. What I need is another something concrete.

Something that will really become something concrete and knock his socks off because this one is going to be far better than the last one! So I wait and I wait and I daydream, and light another chimney and pace and start talking to myself. Fuck unicorns, I’m going to write the next vehicle for Jason Statham. In this sci-fi action thriller, Statham is going to play a [this portion has been ommitted] who wakes up to find that someone else is [this portion has been ommitted]! And they have plans for him. Big plans that he can’t control. This is good, and of course, in the end, Statham is going to figure it all out and turn the [this portion has been ommitted]  on them.  Yes, this is it, my new focus. I tell myself I really like this, maybe even more than the unicorns. Everyone is going to want to make this movie. Everyone is going to want to see it. The concrete thing will need lines and curves and highs and lows, but I can do that, and doing that is what makes me so excited.

Until the phone rings and the peak of a new beginning is sunken by the valley of old dread. I see that it’s my agent calling. I wait as the phone rings and imagine all possible outcomes. First, the news is going to be wonderful, unicorns are just what Spielberg is looking for. But after the second ring, doubt sets it. Who am I fooling? The writing is okay, but four studios are already doing time travel unicorn movies that feature a teen girl with a magical medallion. A third ring brings yet another option. You suck, we are dropping you. Go back to what you are good at in that office where you spend your days behind a desk counting numbers.

I let the call go to voicemail. Voicemail is safe. It will hold my fate for a time. It will give me time to light one more chimney and come to terms with myself. I love what I do. And yet I hate what I can’t do and the things I have to wait for. The world on paper beckons me. The world out there belongs to everyone else. And everyone else has a life, a life greater than me, full of their own successes and failures, meetings and meals, families, vacations, opinions, and excuses. There are too many excuses to name. And most make little sense. But excuses send you off on your merry way.

The phone machine blinks. The agent’s message is waiting. What excuse lays in wait? What story? How will my dreams be murdered this time?  How many hours spent have been wasted? Or will this be the time I haven’t wasted my time? Will this be the time the concrete something really is something?

Yes-No-Maybe

For a split second, I feel elated because the waiting is about to be over and at long last, I will know where I stand. The child deep within me, who started writing stories when he was twelve years old, who was sure he’d be the most important and successful sixteen-year-old screenwriter of all time, still protects the dream, perhaps in a box of childhood keepsakes, a box he refuses to put away. He knows pain, too. He was there for the bicycle incident, his parents fighting, the divorce, the loss of the father, the broken door, the no-shows, the fear of poverty, and many other moments that should have taken the life right out of him.

But the other me, the one who has already lived 52 years, knows that the life doesn’t get taken out of you, it just weighs on you, drowns you, takes away your hope.

The boy’s eyes implore me to pick up the phone. Even though my heart can’t bear to take it, I am his father. I would do anything for my child. Even my inner child. If it wasn’t for the child, for all this work, all this fun, magical work, we would have been dead a long time ago.

child.jpg

So we pick up the phone and press play. And together we listen to the message. A long message. And then, after it, in the silence that follows, all that imagining becomes something real, something concrete. Something to stand up and walk around. 

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