For those of you just joining us, welcome back to The Waiting Room, a series of essays solicited from the team at Heather Elder Represents that share insightful and sometimes hilarious tales about a learning experience with the agony that can come with waiting — stories of learning, adjusting and sometimes even appreciating it.
It is my hope that as we all keep navigating through the unknowns, that you will feel inspired by, and even draw strength from them. We truly are all in this waiting room together!
Kate Chase, Creative Strategist, Guest Editor
By Heather Elder, Founder Heather Elder Represents
When Kate asked me in late March to write about my experience with waiting, my first thought was that I am terrible at waiting. It makes me anxious. When I told her that, she prodded me to think more about what I do while waiting. How do I manage the anxiety that comes with it? That question was easy. I don’t wait. Instead, I do — I make myself busy and productive.
Ask my husband, kids, or mom — they would be more than happy to share stories with you. When I was a teenager, my mom would always choose a terrible time to let me know she knew I did something wrong. On my way out the door, she would casually say, “When you get home, we have to talk.”
My stomach would flip flop. “About what?” I would ask.
“You tell me. You know what you did. So just think about it today, and we can talk tonight.”
I laugh now because I remember thinking that I did a lot of things I could get in trouble for. Which one, in particular, was she thinking about? I wasn’t going to tell, that was for sure. Maybe she did that on purpose. Or, was she hoping that I would spend the whole day anxiously waiting so I would end up confessing? That didn’t sound fun. No way!
I flipped the script. I went to class, and I hung out with friends. I did whatever else I was going to do that day, and I told myself that whatever it was, it would be ok. My parents loved me. I wasn’t failing out of school, nor was I doing anything that bad. I would imagine the worst thing I did and having to talk about it with my parents. And the worst was never so bad.
Maybe this is one of the reasons I have a love/hate relationship with waiting. I love it because there is so much good that comes out of it for me.
In college, I worked part-time as a waitress, where I learned first-hand what happens when the wait doesn’t match the expectation. So I worked harder to keep everyone informed and happy while they waited. And later, as an account executive in an ad agency, I strove to reply as fast as I could to requests, no one would be tormented by waiting on my watch. And I loved that it was my job to keep it that way – to be efficient, accurate, responsive, and transparent.
But on the other hand, I still get terrified when faced with the possibility of waiting.
When my kids say they want to call me to talk about something (they always text) so when the phone rings that familiar stomach flip flop happens, my mind always goes to the bad place. When my husband texts, “Hey, do you have a second?” I drop everything and call. When my dad used to text me and say, “Call me.” I would get so angry because I would think something was wrong and call immediately but would only get caught up in a conversation about Fox News or something else that is equally irritating. I wish I had those calls back now, though! And when my mom says, “Can we talk?” I immediately feel like a teenager in trouble again.
When the pandemic shut us down, with its seemingly infinite unknowns, I felt it was going to be more important than ever that our community come together to share ways to triumph over this uncertainty and take action. I was not alone. As a result, I’ve been part of hundreds of conversations with friends and colleagues where I heard how they were doing, what they are doing, and what they thought the future would look like. I learned first hand that everyone is handling this time differently — some retreat, some act, some clean, some cook, some eat, some drink, and some do it all. Apparently, there is no one way to handle a pandemic.
For our part, we assured our photographers that we are here for them! We would keep the train running, and they could jump on or off anytime. It meant pivoting our marketing towards solution-oriented messages. We helped with studio to-do lists while also being there for our community. In all, we had those much-needed conversations around the issues of today.
As I write this, it is April 30th, and working has become my obsessive compulsion — it still is. I haven’t stopped. That said, I have accepted this challenge like nothing before.
And I am proud to say that we are doing at full speed with the help of so many amazing people. There is now a stock site to share our photographer’s personal collections, a weekly webinar with the Workbook and top creative and industry leaders to share their insights; new interviews with art producers on the Dear Art Producer podcast and Instagram live episodes sharing real-time updates on what we see is happening on the agency side. And something I am most proud of is recognizing that clients needed one place to find the photographers creating in their own homes. Together with location scout Jim Baldwin, we launched Create in Place, an online directory and community of photographers who are doing just that. The idea that together we can all help get the industry creating again has been really powerful. Community is something I value very much. Seeing how resourceful and kind and generous we are all together, makes me hopeful and even a little excited for whatever is going to come next.
As a mom and wife, acting during the pandemic has meant making sure my family has everything they need — you should see my pantry — and that we have quality time to spend together, which was rare pre-pandemic. It means finding time for Netflix, watching home movies, family dinners, dog walks, and doing a lot of puzzles — something I wish I had more time for frankly.
I believe we were in a time in our culture, in our lives, and in our industry that was not sustainable. We have been given a chance to push pause and figure out who our next best selves will be. During this time, I see myself changing every day. I am not the same person I was before this started. I have clarity that I have not had before, which I could not have had without the sense of the shared humanity we are all experiencing. I have my family, our industry, and the amazing photographers and people I work with to thank for that.
Who would have thought that the terrible feeling that came with waiting to get in trouble would be the key to my sanity this last month? “Thanks, mom,” I say sarcastically.
The Black Hole of Waiting
By Kate Chase, Creative Strategist/Guest Editor
Back when I was still agenting, art producer/communicator extraordinaire, Andrea Mariash, advised me that while “our bid was off to the client, we’d now be in the black hole of waiting for three weeks.” I was momentarily stunned that we would have to wait for three-whole-weeks to hear a yay or nay. But then I felt such relief that her chosen metaphor “the black hole of waiting” had so perfectly summed up our industry — that regardless it is hard-wired for immediacy, that much is also out of our control. This means to keep sane; we also must figure out how to deal with the waiting.
Today, when our entire lives have been turned upside down and we don’t know what the future looks like, without a doubt Andrea’s words became the catalyst behind this idea to talk more openly about the waiting and its ripple effects. I was over the moon when Heather championed the idea to solicit stories about waiting from the HER team and the artists’. And no surprise, they dug deep — 14 insightful essays in total!
Along the way, I also learned that be it active or passive, that we’re always waiting. That none of us knows what tomorrow holds. This project also reinforced why I believe in the power of words and how the act of writing it down and putting it out into the world might just help stir much-needed conversations — or could simply help someone who might be struggling.
Ultimately, on behalf of everyone who was able to participate, we hope that as we all keep navigating through these new unknowns, that you might find some inspiration or strength or even a bit of comfort from this series. Because pandemic or no, we are all in the waiting room together !!