Uncross those fingers!

Wisdom came with an unusual visual image from Matt de la Pena speaking to the writers and illustrators at the WIK 13 Southern Breeze SCBWI conference. “You can’t type well with your fingers crossed.”

You might want to ask why anyone would try that in the first place, but he addressed a common, but not very productive, attitude among writers awaiting word on a submission. Having worked hard on writing and polishing until they have a deeply loved work, they send it out to agents and/or publishers. The temptation is to sit and wait for an answer with fingers tightly crossed. Just to show how futile this is, my replies have taken a few days, a few weeks, a few months, and occasionally a year or so!

His advice urged those attending to uncross their fingers and get started on the next work. That most beloved piece may or may not find a home with a publisher. In fact, stories abound of writers who sold their second or fourth or ninth piece before they could get anyone’s attention for the first one. Crossed fingers won’t change the process. Uncrossed fingers, typing away, may produce another work that will find a home – and perhaps even open a door for the first.

In my case, I adapted the image a bit since I love a long legal pad of college-ruled paper and a cup of very sharp pencils for the first draft. I tried out writing with crossed fingers, and I can tell you with authority that makes it hard to grip a pencil, much less write. And I’m thinking if that hoped for phone call comes from the editor/agent, even answering the phone will be easier with uncrossed fingers.  

I’ve enjoyed the takeaway of his image as applied to the writing process, but I think in this new year, it could also be applied to other areas of life. Wishes and dreams have value when they cause us to work for and reach beyond the ordinary. Few materialize because we sit around with our fingers crossed.