Branding My Skin With Fear – Literary Agents

Hey guys,

I hope you’re all well. As always, Jen here.

In February, I started this blog to write solely about the writing journey as an aspiring author. I was planning on being consistent, succinct and honest. Instead, I evolved this blog to become something entirely different. Whether that choice was conscious or unconscious I cannot be sure. Yet in the plethora of posts that have followed, I have learned that I love writing positively, more than writing factually. More so, I love talking about life and experiences much more than myself.

The reason for this is so distinctly obvious that I have danced around it these past months. To document my journey to achieving the dream, is to do so without fear. And my greatest fear, is fear.

Fear has lived as my shadow, best friend and worst enemy from the moment I chose to pursue what I always wanted it; a career in writing.

Fear and Doubt are siblings, if not twins. They cling to my shoulders and drag me backwards into the abyss of inaction and helplessness that forces me to become stagnant in my dreams. I topple backwards with them on my back and grasp anything to maintain my balance. Usually, Procrastination is the closest to hand and like a drowning man in sight of a distance shore, I snatch if with both hands.

In truth, my fear of writing explicitly about the one true passion of my life lies more in an innate anxiety of my friends and family seeing my progress and bearing witness to a possible failure. In September I recognized this as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The words we put after ‘I am’ are the most influential in all of our lives. And I was sick of living as though everyday I plucked my self-worth from a lucky bag – one day I am talented, another and I am cowardly. Should I see myself as a failure, then it is already branded on my skin.

Casting doubt aside not all that long ago, I began cautiously sending out a few queries to literary agents.

This was such a monumental moment that I had first realized to be necessary at the age of ten on our old dial up computer that I used to play Barbie Pony Club after school. After a shoddy google search I proclaimed myself as  informed as one could be and didn’t hesitate to explain the publication process to my primary school teacher the next day. I remember very clearly, that she told me that my choice of career would likely change dozens of times over the course of my life time. Even then, I knew she was wrong. I wasn’t ever going to not want this.

I do now believe that if I fear failure, I have already failed. Truly, that’s not how I want to live. Therefore it is with firm footing and steady breathing that I approach writing this post.

In my email, I now have a folder called ‘rejections’ which I find exceptionally exciting. In time I shall print them out and hold them with the pride. Perhaps that sounds ludicrous, or maybe you think I’m lying.

However, to me, a rejection is proof that I am getting closer to the ideal agent and situation for me. This is but a necessary part of my journey, which is why I poured over the letter from bed, with Netflix, candles and a face plastered in sudocream.

What prompted me to write this post was initially an anger I felt at myself. Carelessly, I emailed an agent without checking if she was even open to receiving queries at this time. In the writing world, to forget to check if the agent or publishing house is even receiving submissions is the height of recklessness.

Instead of throwing my laptop out the window like I so desired in that moment, I resigned myself to use it as a learning situation when I would inevitably receive the snarky reply calling out my amateur status.

In a turn of events I can only put down to my belief that good thoughts breed good gifts from the universe, I received a reply two days later from the agent herself, rather than her secretary. Far from snarky, she told me that whilst she shouldn’t have, she had read the full portion of the manuscript I had attached in my email and loved it. Sadly, she was unable to take my novel due to have reached her allowed quota of novel representations until the new year. She expressed her genuine disappointment and told me to query her again, should I not find anyone else in the time being, as she would, hopefully, have more time to invest in my story which she found both interesting and relevant.

In that moment, I saw the day when I melted my Crayola wax crayons against our playroom radiator in order to create a colorful design for the cover of my ‘book’ which I was writing in a learn-to write children’s copybook. Thinking myself ingenious, I was not prepared for my mother’s wrath. I was seven years old.

The email from the editor was a rejection, a victory, a compliment, a disappointment and an absolute triumph all in one. More so, it felt inevitable. I wondered, whilst reading the email, if this was what it felt like to truly have aligned your passion with your career. It was in a state of utter contentment, I moved the email to my ‘rejections’ folder.

The next day, at college, autumn was everywhere. The leaves were crunchy, red and littered every path. As I stepped on them delightedly, I realized that should I never received the status of an author that I would have a hard time viewing myself as a failure.

My mother frequently tells my sister and I that we are blessed to be pursuing careers that we love. She tells me that my grandparents never had that honor when they settled into dairy farming. I agree – we are blessed. Though I don’t agree that someone else telling you that are something, makes it so. I am blessed because I feel blessed. And that feeling, is what makes it so.

This post has taken me longer to write than usual. I hesitated over and over again because I was worried. Somehow putting my thoughts on positivity and my experiences in life online was easy. But sharing a step towards my ultimate goal was dangerous, presumptuous and even a little egotistical?

I count my mental successes in the number of mental protests I hold against a problematic thought process. And this is one.

And I’m eradicating the fear of documenting this journey by clicking ‘upload’.

Write soon,

Jennifer x

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