The phone call from my agent was less a thunderclap and more a gentle spring shower.
I’d finished the darn manuscript three years ago, gotten picked up by an agent a year later, so how on earth could it take so long to find a publisher?
I read with fierce anxiety every rejection from major publishers. In truth, they were nice rejections, with compliments woven in, but a rejection all the same. I prefer to call them ‘redirections’. I do that because it is pretty hard to get that many rejections, although most manuscripts don’t even get a thorough read by the big boys, so there’s that.
But I thought being represented by an agent guaranteed a publishing contract in ten minutes.
So I muddled around, thinking about what I should do in the meantime. I’m not a person who can just . . . be okay waiting. Surely I could hurry the process along. Isn’t that what we all think in the waiting? We have to do something.
I wrote more stuff. I sent out queries of my own to ‘help’ my agent. (Shh, don’t tell her. And it doesn’t matter anyway, because in our contract she gets 15% no matter who lands the deal so whatever.) I prayed. I asked God if this wasn’t the right direction, should I just quit writing? Should I change course and write magazine articles? Should I work for one of those ten-cents-per-word blog writer companies? Work out more? Take up knitting? Get more cats?
This ‘being a writer’ thing is not as cool and interesting as it appears. A lot of time is spent writing into a void and I’m a person that needs encouragement. Lots and lots of encouragement. I still can’t figure out why I’ve always felt an inner urge to do this. I am the most needy and impatient person on earth and I don’t handle rejection well. A writer, by definition, is nearly synonymous with rejection and discouragement.
I’ve learned a lot about waiting the past couple of years. Waiting means that eventually, the right thing to do will make itself known and nothing I can do or say will make it happen on my timetable. Oh I can bluster something in, ignore red flags, knock down doors that should remain closed and make the wrong thing happen and spend a couple years on a disaster detour, but I’ve done that before and don’t want to do it again. Can I get an amen?
I’ve learned how to be content in the waiting, trusting that my prayers are heard and my desires are noted. I can trust the process if I’ve done the right things and have the right heart attitude. I’ve learned I can enjoy myself in the waiting, do stuff that I might not have time to do if I am busy meeting deadlines. I don’t have to sputter and spew complaints all over everyone that I’ve not ‘arrived’ yet or that people are just not ‘getting’ what I’ve accomplished. I’ve learned not to pull the plug too fast on something, but wait. Be patient. I’m still learning how to do that, but I’m definitely better than I was.
I’m learning that just sitting in the chair and putting my hands on the keyboard will yield something, anything; and that is better than nothing. Waiting is a great time to practice whatever skill or endeavor the waiting is attached to. Waiting also exposes the good, the bad and the ugly inside me, which gives me the opportunity to work on becoming a better person.
I wonder if there are many things quite as hard as waiting on something wonderful we’ve decided we must have. Problem is, often it isn’t something we just have to have. It may be a burning desire, but not an actual need. I didn’t have to ‘be something’ in order to validate myself or prove that I am a worthwhile human being. It’s been hard, but I’m learning to let go of the belief that my identity is wrapped up in what I do instead of who I am. So I went sighing and moaning to God and gave him my desire to be a novelist, told Him it was all His anyway, so there.
And that was the week I got the call. By that time, I barely cared. The hold it had on me was broken. I was happy when I got the contract offer, but not overly impressed with myself. I was humbled instead. God gave me a gift! I want to be responsible and take care of it, but I’m no longer panting with desire or pushing and prodding and forcing it to happen through sheer self-will.
It wasn’t my doing. It wasn’t even my agent’s doing, although she did a great job and hammered out a lot of work on my behalf.
It was just time.