SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
September 30, 2018

The Waiting Game Sucks

Most of it, I guess, is my own damn fault. The German in me hatesóand I mean hates to the point of paralyzing terroróthe idea of being late for anything. Appointments, assignments, rent checks, anything. Itís not that I think Iíll die if Iím a little late with something, I just donít like being late because I hate making people wait for me. Because of this, I tend to show up an hour early for doctors appointments, and if a story is due on Monday, I generally turn it in the previous Tuesday at the latest. It boils down to the simple fact I donít rush very well. If a deadline or scheduled meeting is drawing a bit too close for comfort, I get clumsy and sloppy. My fingers can no longer find the right keys on the computer, and if Iím on my way someplace, I tend to collide with objects, people and animals. Beneath that, if I have something that needs doing, I prefer to just do it as soon as possible so I can scratch it off the list, shove it away from me, and stop thinking about it. A good deal of my daily life revolves around doing things simply so I donít have to think about them anymore. If I have a story, say, thatís not due for two months, why wait? I mean, who knows what kind of crazy shit might happen over the ensuing weeks? I might find myself in Kenya, for godsakes, so better to get this thing here out of the way now, just in case.

††††††††††† This is problematic on a number of fronts. It can be maddening to the people around me, as I sit there with my jaw clenched and knee bouncing, waiting for someone to get ready to head out for a show that begins in, Christ, just three hours? Weíll never make it! Of course we always do and always have, and none of it matters a toss in the long run. But itís just this thing in my blood and my head that wonít let me go.

††††††††††† The other problem is that getting to appointments or turning in assignments crazy early so I wonít have to worry about them anymore leaves me with the prospect of waiting, and I hate waiting almost as much as I hate being late for anything.

††††††††††† The problem with waiting is that itís completely out of my hands, as it usually depends on other people, most of whom are not nearly as time-obsessive as I am. Waiting for people to show up at an appointed time, waiting for people to respond to emails or post stories or mail checks. Itís maddening, and can lead to some deep, if passing, resentments. I donít exactly relish the idea of hearing from people in general, but when itís imperative that I hear from them it only makes waiting that much worse.

††††††††††† As noted, itís a situation Iíve created for myself. If Iíve got a number of things going on at onceóand we all know how cyclical that is, all manner of things coming together at the same time, all of them demanding immediate attentionóI sit down and concentrate my way through them all and get them off my plate. Then I breathe a brief sigh, knowing I donít really need to worry about them anymore, that Iíve done my job and theyíre out of my hands. But that feeling of accomplishment only lasts a few minutes, tops, until the moment I realize I now have to wait for other people to do things on their end and get back to me. Until they do, I donít dare move on to anything else major, not wanting to be interrupted and tripped up in the middle of a project. If one of these people gets back to me and wants revisions, or forms filled out, or something reformatted, and whatever it is needs doing immediately, it usually involves a major switching of brainial gears. That can utterly screw up the thing Iíd just started. So I sit and wait to hear back, a vast desert with nothing to do opening up before me, feeling my brain growing tight and dry. When Iím not working on something, I get a little creepy and sullen.

††††††††††† Thatís where Iíve been much of this past week. Annoying thing is, a number of things Iím waiting on involve some potentially very good news, all of which came along at that precise moment when I was in desperate need of some good news. So hereís a brief list of some of what Iím waiting for, which helps explain why Iím presently writing this particular column. I need to do something, need to keep the head and fingers occupied and busy, otherwise Iíll start screaming again.

†††††††††††The editor of an online magazine has been promising that a story I turned in two months ago would be posted ďin the next day or two.Ē Heís been promising this for, well, the past two months. Only after it appears on the site can I send my invoice in, after which itíll take another month to get paid.

††††††††††† Despite similar promises from another publication, Iím still waiting on two checks that were supposed to be here a month ago. Theyíre hardly what youíd call ďwhopping,Ē but at this point even a pittance would be helpful.

††††††††††† Iíve been doing a bit of writing for a British record label these past couple of years. My contact over there hinted before I got started on this most recent project that since it would be longer and much more extensive than the previous projects Iíd done for them, I could charge a higher rate. Well, despite three queries to confirm this after turning the latest project in (six months before deadline, Iíll have you know), I havenít heard back yet.

††††††††††† A fellow Iíve worked with in the past contacted me, telling me he wanted to get a new and interesting website underway, and needed my help. Okay, fine. Best thing about this guy was that he always paid, always paid on time, and this time around was ready to pay more than ever if he could round up a stable of solid writers. So I informally bounced the idea off some writers I know, and they were all interested. Then this guy told me he was going to sketch out a little pitch letter, which I then would flesh out and rewrite before sending it off to a bunch of potential contributors. He wanted to do this very soon, as he planned to launch the new site in two or three weeks. I waited a few days and heard nothing more, so just went ahead and whipped up a goofy pitch letter before sending it to him so he could lay out the technical basics of the site and anything else that seemed worth mentioning. I havenít heard a thing since.

††††††††††† Two weeks ago I received an interesting note from a stranger, which I then passed along to my agent. It was one of those vaguely potentially very good things. My agent wrote back to let me know she was on it, but since then thereís been silence. The deal with my agent, bless her, is that while sheís working on something, Iím not to nag her about it. If she has news, sheíll tell me. If I bug her about it beforehand, sheíll punch me. Thatís fine, but then I got a call from my friend Andy, telling me heís sent three emails which I never received. What if the same thing was happening with my agent? What if she sent a bunch of important emails I never received, and now thinks Iím just ignoring her? That could queer the whole deal!

††††††††††† After a long, harrowing, and demoralizing process, it would seem Iím up for a teaching position at a local college. Iíve filled out all the paperwork and the new course Iíve created was supposed to be listed as an official offering for the spring semester. None of that means a fucking thing. If I donít get ten students to sign up, the school will cancel the class and that will be that. I normally wouldnít worry much, except the class was scheduled for the worst goddamn time on earth, and Iíve been told not to get my hopes up. So now Iím waiting to hear from someone at the school to let me know if itís a go or not. The semester begins in January, and I may not learn anything until a few days beforehand. If the course is cancelled, I have a slew of delightful columns here about the whole ugly process. If, on the other hand, I get the go ahead, itís going to mean flying into a sloppy blind panic of preparation, and weíll just forget I said anything about that slew of columns.

††††††††††† In short, Iím waiting on every damn thing, up to and including the apocalypse. But at least if the apocalypse shows up, I wonít have to worry about any of those other things.

 

You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.