There is a distinct advantage to having to wait a long time for your writerly dreams to come true.
I never thought I'd say that. I never thought I'd have to say that, because, let's face it--signing with an agent feels like an "I'm almost there!" moment. And for many, that's exactly what it is. But for me? No.
So, what's the advantage to walking through four-and-a-half-years-and-counting with little to show for it? One word: balance.
There, I said it. I am finally living a BALANCED writer-life.
For those first couple of years, I lived in perpetual freneticism over the State of Things with manuscripts-on-submission. On Fridays, I felt like life was shutting down, because I knew there wouldn't be any word from NYC over the weekend. On Mondays, I perked up, because, dad-gummit, there was a chance that an editor would fall in love with my story that day!
I found out everything I could about every editor who had my stuff. I thrived on the adrenaline rushes from finding IPs from HarperCollins or Random House or Scholastic on my blog. I kept running tabs on how long my manuscript had been with each editor.
I lived for receiving emails from my agent, even though they were often bad news. Because, there was always the chance that the next email would be THE ONE.
After a few unsuccessful rounds, my crazy energy morphed into something a lot closer to cynicism. Sure, I kept doing all the checking, but it was without the rush of hopeful enthusiasm I'd once had. I was in a place of "Why am I wasting my time?" and "X-rated, plagiarized fan faction gets published while I sit here working my butt off for nothing."
Cynicism is ugly. So are crushed dreams, when you sit there in the middle of them, watching them rot and breathing in their stench.
From that place, I came to a place of Almost Quitting. Not the emotional, every-writer-goes-through-it-several-times-a-year angst of wanting to run away from it all, but seriously planning my exit strategy.
Resignation. It's like being dead.
After that, though, when I finally realized that, no, I actually wasn't capable of quitting (which, fortunately, my husband reminded me of at an opportune time), I decided to press on--while also pressing on with Other Things In Life.
You all know about the job interview from hell, which ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. I would have hated that job. The life and breath of my writing-ness would have been squashed. I am so thankful to have been saved from doing something that would have, in the long run, stolen my joy.
Instead, it snapped me into focus. What was I doing, considering doing any other type of writing than what I'm already doing? Writing stories MAKES ME HAPPY. Despite anything--despite everything--I AM A STORYTELLER. I can't stop being that.
I can, however, stop being an "agented author who is waiting for things to fall in place". It's freeing to just write my stuff, send it to Josh when it's ready, and then move on with my day.
You all had to listen to me bellyaching about the WIP-from-hell for months. Well, guess what I'm doing today? I'm starting revisions! And the scary/wonderful/unexpected part? I'M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT!
Who knew, right?
But I've got other things going on that carry equal weight. I've got my ballet (2 times a week through the summer, 3 times a week starting in September). Last weekend, I auditioned for--and was accepted into--a sort-of big deal chorus in our area. That means, yanno, practicing my part in between weekly rehearsals. (It also means an incredibly difficult vocal score, but that's a whole nuther story.) I've got kombucha to brew, manuscripts to edit, piano lessons to teach, and friends to hang out with.
And all this life-stuff hangs in an equal balance with my writing. Finally. FINALLY. It took me this long to find the balance. Honestly, it was a question of survival. I couldn't keep up the hand-wringing and the teeth-gnashing. I had to stop trying to sync my entire life to the ebb and flow of the publishing week.
Oh, the freedom!
So, here I am. Do I still feel frustrated sometimes? Oh, absolutely. Does the cynicism still rear its head on occasion? Well, yeah. But I'm not defined by any of this. And it feels incredible.
Wherever you are in your journey--take heart! You really never know what tomorrow may bring, whether an offer from an agent, the sale of your first book, a starred review--or simply some perspective to carry you through the day. And, trust me--that perspective is worth its weight in gold. Or, yanno, in truckloads of hardcovers. Whichever makes your heart tingle.