The Garden of Creative Limbo

J. Dianne Dotson
3 min readMay 15, 2022
Writer, artist, and erstwhile gardener J. Dianne Dotson reflects on what to do while you wait for responses.

This morning, I’ve been thinking about how every creative person I know has gone through impostor syndrome. And many folks are going through a very unpleasant limbo waiting at different stages of development in their work. Whether it’s querying agents, waiting to hear back from editors, waiting to hear back from potential collaborators, or waiting to hear whether an optioned film is actually going to be made, none of it is very fun. It can even bring a person down.

The singer Richard Marx got it right with his iconic song; it “don’t mean nothin’” till you’ve signed on the dotted line.

Some things help me with this. The first is realizing it’s a feature, not a bug.

Waiting Is Like Gardening

So what do you do? Work on other things. Get projects done, set them into the world, and keep moving. Stay “booked and busy.” But!

Treat that in-between phase as a time for taking care of yourself too. This is all very much like gardening.

You’ve got this idea for a garden. You get all the seeds and equipment. You’re going to grow the best garden! It’ll keep feeding you and bringing joy!

But then you have to wait. Will anything take root? Wait! There’s a sprout! Oh no, something’s eating up your seedlings!

Then there’s a drought. You’ve planted all this stuff, some of it in progress, and then…nothing.

What’s a gardener to do?

While You’re Waiting…

Back in 2010, I took my tiny kids on a cross-country road trip to visit their grandparents. Somehow I did this without incurring long-term mental scars on any of us. In fact, it kicked off a family tradition, and it got to the point that I mastered transcontinental road travel with kids at varying stages. Come to think of it, that might be worth writing about someday.

Before we left, however, I had to deal with this old, rotting stump in the backyard of my Seattle rental home. The landlords had given me free rein to do whatever I chose with that yard. So I found, incredibly, some old wooden planks buried under a wall of ivy I cleared off the retaining wall. I made some garden beds with those. I planted some seeds and waited to see what…

J. Dianne Dotson

J. Dianne Dotson is a science fiction/fantasy/horror author, science writer, and artist. Repped by Laura Bennett. Visit @jdiannedotson