I hope this letter finds you well. As we wait for spring (and for the lockdown to lift), I would like to share some insights into what I've learnt about waiting and how waiting can be a gift we could be thankful for.
As creatives, we know what it means to wait. We understand that things take time and most times we cannot control when and how long we have to wait. We could be waiting for our creative breakthrough or that phone call from our agent, or a response from a client, or a global pandemic to be over or for our paint to dry.
How can waiting be a gift? Isn't it a waste of time? Doesn't it disrupt us while trying to get things done? I thought so until I realised that I could use waiting times to do what I don't get to do when getting other things done. It is like I have been gifted bonus time to learn, process ideas or simply catch my breath.
We seldom talk about patience and what to do while we wait. Our default is to complain and blame someone for causing the wait. However, I realised that complaining exhausts my energy and blaming doesn't give me back control. What if we could turn our 'seemingly wasteful' wait times into purposeful times? What if we used this time to take back control of our time? What if we used these times to create, celebrate and become the people we aspire to be?
I believe how we view our waiting times can increase our sense of wellbeing because it can lead to positive emotions like gratitude, productivity and joy. The trick is to pre-empt our waiting times and be prepared. Here are three different types of waiting we can all relate to and what to do while we wait:
Waiting for Coffee, Appointments or Kids: Create While You Wait
Most of us take out our devices and start scrolling while waiting for our coffee, appointments or kids. Sometimes they are the only times we get to catch up on messages, watch that funny video our bestie sent us, or reply to emails. If that is the case, feel free to use the time to do so. However, as an alternative, we can also use the time to create while we wait. I stumbled across this habit by chance.
I became really busy when I became a mum, leaving very little time to do anything else. I missed out on creating art as I would schedule creative times on the weekend, but I'd end up falling asleep... until one day. I had to wait to meet a good friend at a park who was running a few minutes late. As I waited, I felt a strong urge to draw because I hadn't been able to schedule in time to create. So I sat down on the grass, picked up a seed pod and started sketching the pod on my boring notepad using a ballpoint pen. Although it was only for 10 minutes, I felt incredible satisfaction and delight. I decided from that day to carry a sketchbook and a few pens and pencils in my handbag.
I'd sketch anything I could see whenever I had to wait. My sketchbook was filled with salt and pepper shakers drawings at one point because I'd sketch while waiting for my coffee or meals at cafes. I didn't care how my sketches looked like as it was about practising, not producing a masterpiece. This practice has increased my drawing speed, sharpened my observations and built my confidence. Before long, I started sketching portraits which I thought I'd never do.
I have also been playing the piano while waiting for food to cook (a 20-40min bake is perfect). Or I would record an audio of my thoughts for a writing piece while waiting for my son during tennis lessons, so I could start writing when I get home. I love how my mum takes her knitting with her wherever she goes, and she'd knit even while waiting for dad to drive to their destination. I suggest trying to create something you'd like to master as it could revolutionise your creative practice, and best of all, you won't even feel like you have been waiting.
Waiting for an Outcome, Response or Answers: Surrender & Celebrate While You Wait
Waiting for answers can put me into a spin. I would anxiously go round in circles in my mind while waiting for a response to my proposals, applications, health tests, etc. The one thing we often do is worry. We imagine the worse, we wish for the best, we dread the rejection, we dream of what could be... it's like an emotional rollercoaster that sucks up our energy, and if we let it, it can consume us, disrupting our peace, sleep and wellbeing. This is easier said than done, but it will make the waiting time more meaningful. Here are 3 things we can do, depending on what we are waiting for. We surrender, celebrate or both.
In my work as a consultant, I spend a lot of time writing proposals. I have learned to surrender the outcome and celebrate the brave step of putting myself out there (the same with auditions). I would talk to someone about it, drink coffee or wine to it, and tell myself, 'Well done for getting it putting it on paper because it can now be used in another proposal.' Nothing is wasted no matter what happens because the work I have put in only made me better at what I do. This has helped me be ok with whatever the outcome.
When waiting for health results, I would turn to self-love activities and celebrate the goodness in my life (no matter how small). If I need further back up, I'd call on a friend in my support network to express my fears and then talk about the latest series on Netflix that I should check out. I'd surrender the thoughts and divert them to something else.
Waiting for a Breakthrough: Grow & Become While You Wait
Waiting for a breakthrough is not easy. We aspire for that big break - that opportunity that would set us on a path to success. However, in reality, success doesn't just come to us and we certainly don't become successful overnight. There is always a wrestle before a breakthrough, like a seed that has sprouted, breaking its way through the ground to grow into what it is meant to be.
Here's a story from my past that exemplifies my point. When I was in my second year of design school, I remember feeling uncertain about whether I was good enough to work as a designer. It was the year that most design students would decide whether to continue or drop out of design school and I wondered if I had 'transitioned'. I recall working on an assignment - a large format poster for a high-end furniture store. In those days, before designing anything on the computer, I would design layouts manually, cutting out images and chunks of texts for headings. I pinned the A2 sized poster on the wall to view it from a distance and made changes where I saw fit. I wrestled over the artwork for weeks. Late one evening, as I was stepping back looking at my work, a senior lecture walked past the studio at that moment and called out to me. 'Stop! That's it! You got it!' I was surprised by her reaction. She then explained that the composition was perfect from where she was standing. It caught her eye from a distance, which nailed the brief! And then she said something that I would never forget. 'You've broken through. I've seen you toil over this and now you have broken through. It was worth the hard work.' That was my turning point - I went on to finish design school and worked as a designer for 17 years, with the confidence that the wrestle in the waiting is worth it because I WILL come to my breakthrough.
Trying to break through takes a long time and it is uncomfortable. I am grateful for my husband Tim, who is one of the most patient people I know. He has taught me so much about slowing down and letting go of the need to rush into making something happen prematurely. Mastery takes time and practice. I learnt that if growth is the PROCESS OF BECOMING, then a breakthrough is when WE HAVE BECOME. If we haven't broken through, it is because we are still becoming. Regardless of where we are at, we are progressing... even in the waiting.
Being in lockdown is incredibly challenging for us all, but we have the opportunity to grow and become while we wait. The worse thing for us to do is to complain about others and not gain control of our choices. The question is who do we want to be when we get out of a season of waiting and what steps can we take right now towards our breakthrough?
I am interested to know what will you do while you wait. Please do write back if you would like to share or have any questions. I hope this letter has given you some food for thought on how waiting can be a gift. May we learn to appreciate the bonus time gifted to us the next time we have to wait.
Founder of Made to Create