I am not a naturally patient person. I like to feel the illusion of control over my life, to believe my own actions are shaping my destiny. Waiting for others to decide my fate is something I find really tough. I’d love to say something zen about how patience isn’t in the waiting itself but in finding peace whilst waiting, but I simply don’t see it. As far as I’m concerned, waiting is just awful.
I was in the fortunate position of having a long and varied legal career with one employer and I only ever applied for one job elsewhere, whilst exploring alternatives to fee earning that might have worked alongside writing. It has been two years since that interview, in itself rather awkward – I was wearing the same dress as one of the interviewers and was 10 months into maternity leave so lactating and nappy changes had blotted out most of my professional brain. I still haven’t heard back from them. For many weeks I watched my inbox nervously, waiting for a response. I no longer expect one, particularly as I know somebody else was appointed to do the job, but I find loose ends somewhat disturbing, so on occasion it still crosses my fastidious mind that they are yet to reply.
When my husband and I decided to start a family, I hated the long wait until our daughter was finally on her way. Each month was filled with nervous anticipation and ended in bleak disappointment. My difficulty wasn’t with the time it took but with the uncertainty of whether it would ever happen at all. All that hope and fear spilling from weeks into months and then into years. Had I known how things would turn out, I could have relaxed and enjoyed those carefree days before the joys and responsibilities of parenthood consumed us, but instead I obsessed over the future, and wished away the time.
It won’t surprise you to hear that the resounding silence that follows submission to literary agents has not been suiting me particularly well. My working hours have been spent imagining their disgust at my audacity in even contacting them and I’ve been waking in the small hours to torture myself over clunky wording in a cover letter or a missing comma in my manuscript. Not very constructive, nor conducive to writing book two, which I had hoped to lose myself in whilst languishing in the ‘slush pile’ (the somewhat harsh industry term for the numerous lovingly crafted novels awaiting the attention of an agent or publisher). All in all, I was feeling lost in a wilderness of my own creation, filled with self-doubt and far too much self-indulgent reflection.
But, no more. I would love to be able to tell you that mindfulness or yoga had soothed my weary soul or to report that my nerves were unfounded and that agents are fighting to represent me, but the kick in the derrière I so badly needed actually came from my very first standard form rejection. Far from catastrophic, it was bland, polite and inoffensive. It pinged into my inbox unexpectedly, alongside an email from a clothing brand I once made the error of providing my email address to. And the world kept on turning. And I still believed in my book. And I reached out to some local authors in the hope of finding some peers. And I researched more agents, found one with whom I felt a connection, rewrote my cover email with more passion and got back out there. I was relieved the process was working. I felt like I had a new chance to share my book, to try to find an agent who would be passionate about it. It felt like I was doing something.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to the waiting game, but for now I feel like I’ve been through an initiation rite. It may be strange, but I think I’m actually celebrating my first rejection, embracing the gritty reality of life as an author.