Why I Stopped Pursuing an Agent (For Now!)

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At the beginning of this year I finished polishing off my first novel and shipped it off to a few agents, keeping my fingers crossed for great news, while remaining realistic. It was my first book, after all, and I knew I had plenty to learn before I’d be ready for publication. Still, it felt like a huge milestone in my writing journey and my first submission has taught me far more than I ever thought it would.

The project I sent off has been shelved for now, as I know it’s not quite there yet and it may be something I dust off in a while and do a bit more work on. We’ll see! I promptly started work on my next book and am currently about 20k through it – progress is slow but I’m really enjoying the process and I can see visible improvements in my writing, which is always a thrill.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why most of my friends who write are much more focused on publication than I am. Of course it’s an ultimate goal of mine to see one of my books in print but I feel like I have a lot more to work on and achieve before I’ll truly be ready to be taken on by an agent. Many of my friends have improved in leaps and bounds, found incredible agents through the strength of their amazing writing, and those that don’t yet have representation are 100% focused on achieving that goal as soon as possible…so I felt like maybe my passion wasn’t as strong as theirs because I’ve decided to hold off on it for a while.

Like I said, I’ve thought about it a lot and I think the main thing that’s changed my attitude towards writing has been my career. Eighteen months ago all I thought about was getting an agent and seeing my book on the shelves; whenever I had a crappy day at work I’d remind myself I was working in my terrible, depressing office job because it gave me the means to write on the side and eventually it would all pay off and be worth it because I’d get to be a full time writer.

Getting an agent and a book deal became the driving force behind getting up and going to work every day and I think putting that much emphasis on publication being the key to happiness was actually to my detriment. Instead of taking my time, honing my craft and becoming the best writer I could be, I rushed into things because I was so desperate to get out of that job and I saw getting a book deal as my only way out – sad, isn’t it? Also, how much was my head in the clouds to think I’d earn enough to quit my job just because I had a book published? Ha.

Anyway, about fifteen months ago I quit my job to set up my own copywriting and social media consultancy and I haven’t looked back. The business takes up a *lot* of time but I absolutely love it and it’s been way more successful than I ever dreamed – I’m not rolling in cash (I’m actually not earning much more than I was in my last job!) but I’m infinitely, immeasurably happier and the most content with my job than I’ve ever been in my life.

The side effect, though, is that my dedication to writing my novel has taken a bit of a downward turn. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think there are two reasons for this:

One: I now write for a living. Not novels, obviously, but articles, whitepapers, company newsletters, blog posts, social media content…etc etc. I spend all of my working life writing and probably write about 5 – 15k a week just for work. After I’ve written 3k a day for work the last thing I want to do is sit down to do another few thousand at the end of the day!

Two: I get my daily dose of validation. I think one of the main reasons we all aspire to get an agent or get published is to get that validation, to know that we are good at writing and that people want to read what we write. As my sole income comes from writing I get that buzz every time one of my articles is published so I feel like my need to see my work in print is achieved on a daily basis.

One of my ultimate goals is still to get representation and eventually see my books in print but I’m not in any rush, and I’ve been much happier since I made that decision. I want it to happen organically and I know it will happen when the time is right. Forcing myself to get a book out to agents ASAP just to keep up with those around me is definitely not the right thing to do, and I think my writing has improved since I took the pressure off and learned to love it again. It might have taken me three months to write 20k but it’s 20k that I’m really proud of – and, for now, my only goal is to keep enjoying the process and to be proud of all of my writing achievements, however small they are!

2 Comments

  1. July 6, 2015 / 7:54 am

    THANK YOU!

    You know, I’ve been feeling really down that I haven’t been writing. For three years, it feels like my output has gone from an outpouring to a drip, and it really used to upset me. I had all of these plans, and now I’m too tired to carry them out. But I’ve been working on other things, getting regular feedback, and it feels really nourishing. I also hope to see my books in print one day, but I’m so glad to know other people who don’t rush into it.

  2. July 9, 2015 / 8:24 pm

    I love this post Carly. You’ve hit the nail on the head – once you took the pressure off the need to get a book deal your writing has improved. It makes me question – how much better would we all perform if we just took the pressure off? I guess that’s a whole blog post in itself.

    I’m so pleased to hear that you are so happy now, it’s so refreshing to see someone grabbing life by the horns

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