Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I'm a writer and I'm thinking of applying to work at a lit agency

I'm both a young writer and currently working my first job in publishing at a Big Five publishing company. I'm not sure where I'm planning to go next career-wise, but I have considered trying to move over to the agenting side of the business, and I did previously intern at a literary agency and interview for several internships and assistant positions at different agencies. My question is, how do I handle querying an agency that I previously interviewed with, and how do I handle applying for a job at an agency that once requested my full manuscript?


You keep quiet about the writing. Don't mention you've queried, don't mention you write. If you're applying for a job, focus on the job they want you to do. Don't tell anyone you're really just here till you sell your novel.

I cannot urge you strongly enough to NOT consider working at lit agency while trying to forge a career as a writer.

It takes a lot of time and attention to become good at a job. Literary agenting isn't 9-5 or even 9-9 if you want to be good at it. You're thinking about work even when you're out at brunch with your pals.

And if you're an assistant, it's worse.

The problem is: writing is the EXACT same kind of work. It's not 9-5 even if you only write for a couple hours a day. Writing a novel of any kind requires your creative brain to engage, and there's no schedule for that.

If you want to be a writer, you want a job you don't take home with you after quitting time.

The other part of the problem is wearing two hats in the publishing industry at this stage of your career means it's almost impossible to network effectively.  You've got to build your career as one thing, then branch out later when you've got an established base.

If you ignore this, and apply for a lit agency job anyway: do not mention anything about writing.


I know you think you're the exception to this, that you can do everything you want and do it well. That's exactly the kind of bravado and confidence required to be a good agent, BUT you also need to be realistic.  It's very very hard to do two things very well (just ask Michael Jordan.)  Do you want to be really good at one thing, or sort of ok at two?  That's the real choice here.




90 comments:

Laura Mary said...

Absolutely agree on needing a job you can switch off from. I work a 9-5 job in finance, occasionally writing on my lunchbreak and constantly mulling over subplots whilst filling in dull spreadsheets, and I *still* struggle to fit in proper writing time!
I can see the appeal of working in a related field, but for me, something would definitely fall by the wayside.

Lucie Witt said...

I have to second Laura here. I have a legal day job I 100% leave behind after office hours. It frees up my creative energy in a different way.

I've done the teaching thing on the side for almost five years. The first two years of teaching my writing output plummeted. Horribly. I was creating new classes, developing my materials, and getting used to managing my time reading, preparing lectures, answering student emails, and grading. This consumed my time and my creative energy. After a few years I got a system in place (and experience), and started writing regularly again.

Of course, last year I hit a huge reading slump and stopped working out.

When you put a lot on your plate something will inevitably fall off.

Donnaeve said...

I can see why someone who writes would want to do this. Just like being a librarian when you love to read. Why not work behind the scenes and in publishing when that's ultimately what you aspire to do. Publish. I'm thinking OP might view it it as a foot in the door where they'd have "friends" in the industry, and very good contacts outside of the pub company they're employed with.

But, like QOTKU said, "If you want to be a writer, you want a job you don't take home with you after quitting time."

I'm on the fence with this.

With regard to QOTKU's advice, it rings true b/c I know this; My husband is a general contractor and spends his days fixing/building other peoples businesses and houses. We have an old house we live in. 110 years old. We've been here almost 20 years and...there's still a LOT to do with renovations. One of the upstairs bathrooms? It's been gutted with a new floor, walls and the stubbed out area for pipes for five years. I didn't have a kitchen for about that length of time too. FIVE YEARS with no stove, sink, oven...nada. We ate off paper plates, and cooked on the grill.

The point being...when he comes home? The last thing he wants to do is what he's been doing all day.

On the other hand, and depending on the position in the publishing company (agent maybe) or editing assistant, or...whichever it is, I could almost see inspiration coming from seeing other people's work. Sort of like when I read REALLY good books, and I'm so inspired I want to get up out of bed at 2:00 a.m. and go write something down. If you're driven like that, it MIGHT work. It depends on your inner gumption and drive, I suppose.

Drifting over to Her Duchesse's comment yesterday regarding HTML and hyperlinking - thank you for the explanation and you might have missed this, but for some of us, using Colin's method doesn't work. It has something to do with signing in to post the comment. Blogger seems to be temperamental about it.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

This statement from Janet, "you want a job you don't take home with you after quitting time." I work part-time but am salaried. It's ideal for writing. But this month, for several reasons, work is taking more than 2.5 days a week. Not just physically, at the office and at home, but it's also absorbing my mental and emotional energy. My story sits on the back burner as my creativity focuses on the issues I have to resolve at my salaried vocation.

Opie, listen to Janet in her last paragraph, "that you can do everything you want and do it well." Human energy is finite. Our bodies need sleep, food, and physical movement. My young adult son is a bit of a dynamo (he only needs 5-6 hours of sleep to function) and pushes himself, working 2 jobs, freelancing, gaming, eating irregularly, and getting by on even less hours of sleep. But eventually he blows out. Then he drops a few of his projects to get more sleep and food and to relax. She's sharing her wisdom as a
top-of-the-line and caring literary agent.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

ooops, sorry about that last paragraph. The "She's sharing her wisdom..." refers back to Janet at the top of that paragraph.

jeesh....more caffeine.

Colin Smith said...

I have a legal job too. At least I hope what I do it legal... ;) Hahaha... I know what you mean. Seriously, I don't work in law, I work in IT and have for about 22 years now. If this is what I'm stuck with as a full time job, I can live with that--it can be fun and creative at times. But my passion is elsewhere, which means I'll never be as good at my job as I could be. *looks over shoulder, checks boss isn't reading*

I've been stalking agents for about five years now, and it has become very clear to me that to be a good literary agent you need to love books, love reading, have an analytical mind (whether for queries, manuscripts, or contracts), be a team player, be passionate about your clients and their work, have good inter-personal skills, be good at conflict resolution, and know when to turn off (i.e., avoid burn-out). I hit a few of these, but nowhere near all. I'd be a useless agent.

I recognize there are agents who also write (and themselves have agents), and they are good agents--but I admit, when I'm querying, they're among the last on my list. Given as much as a good agent needs to be an advocate of someone else's work, I can't see how an agent-writer avoids conflict of interest.

OK... I'm feeling a deja-vu moment--we've talked about this before, and I've made the same points before that I was about to make--so I'll stop there. Suffice to say, I agree with Janet. Be a great agent, or a great writer. Being mediocre at both serves no-one, least of all yourself.

Lucie Witt said...

Colin, that cracked me up.

Now, "I have an illegal day job "- that sounds like the start of a flash fiction entry.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

A question to ask yourself, OP. What kind of writer you want to be?

I imagine writing skills are very helpful in agenting. There are all kinds of writing jobs. Writing fiction does not seem to mix with the agent profile. But there are great agents who write excellent books, like Donald Maas. And QOTKU (Queen of the Known Universe aka Janet) who writes this awesome blog which is worth more than all those agents books.

I have a creative job. I don't have a salary nor benefits. No company phone. Many days I work until midnight and on weekends. When I was younger, I thought late nighters would end, but they never do, especially when I have a deadline. It takes consistency, discipline and lots of time.

BTW, I think "take" is missing an s. But I'm dyslexic.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Seriously I want an agent that digs being an agent. Like Colin I am in IT. Six years ago, I quit a cushy IT job and took a massive pay cut to work IT part-time at a school district so I could write.

Much to the horror of much of my friends and family, I jumped off the quest for the almighty dollar, sold my house, my car, pretty much everything, downsized everything so I could devote the vast majority of my time to writing. It's all I ever wanted to be. I knew it would be a long haul, but it is what it is.

I am about killing myself trying to find an agent, and as hard as I work at being a writer, I would prefer not to have an agent who looks at his or her job as secondary. I want someone who gets off on discovering new talent and nurturing their writers' career in a mutually beneficial way. At least that is the dream.

Theresa said...

It is ideal to have a 9-5 job that you can leave at the office, come home, and morph into a writer. That may not be possible, though. What if you really hate that job because you have your heart set on another one, and you come home worn out from the stress? Not so conducive to writing.

Still, I think the point about finding another job in publishing (aside from agenting)would likely fit the bill.

I have a job (professor), and writing and publishing are part of it. However, teaching is the primary part of the job, and I'm expected to "find time" for writing. From September through May, that's a pretty tough thing to do, considering our large class sizes and the lack of teaching assistants.

Stephen G Parks said...

Janet: If you want to be a writer, you want a job you don't take home with you after quitting time.

So true. I had to make that decision in 2012: I couldn't continue doing communications and fundraising for an educational charity and ever hope to find time to write. That job was intense 24/7, always with more to do.

Now I teach ESL for an educational non-profit, and I can usually leave my job at work. Some days I even write snippets or ideas between classes and email them to myself for that night's work.

Other topic - Blogger started allowing me to make "a href" links when I stopped clicking "I'm not a robot". Still can't use "blockquote."

Colin Smith said...

Stephen: There are only a few HTML tags Blogger will let you use in comments. I think they are hyperlinks, bold, and italics. And that's it. If anyone knows of more, please speak up. :)

Laura Mary said...

I'm actually about to have a massive change of 'day job'. As of June I shall be abandoning the spreadsheets in favour of changing nappies! Something I hear you definitely cannot leave that at the office.

Anyone have any experience to share on writing with a newborn?

Karen McCoy said...

Yup. Definitely find a job where you can give back and contribute, first and foremost.

I took a job as a library selector in the hopes it would give me an ear into the publishing industry and what's selling. As a side benefit, I'm also reading a lot more, and able to contribute to the library system as a whole. And I've learned a ton in my new position.

But. It's taken a huge toll (including moving, which has taken away from writing)and now I'm making a switch into teen librarianship, which I hope doesn't take too much time/energy away from the creative side. At least as a teen librarian, I feel I'll be able to contribute more than I am now.

Lesson learned: don't take a job for the wrong reasons. Figure out where you can contribute, and the writing will come.

stacy said...

I'm pumping my fist in the air for my low-stress job that allows me to work from home when I need to and wear jeans when I don't, still provides insurance and allows me to "leave it at the office" no matter what. I do get plenty of time and energy to write, and it's been a while since I've seen things from that perspective. Thanks, Janet.

Amy Schaefer said...

Laura May, I took up writing when my first child was born. I wanted something to keep my mind from turning to oatmeal while I was home. (That happened anyway, but I'd like to think that writing helped mitigate the damage.) In the process I fell in love with writing, and never gave it up.

Writing with a small baby in the house is actually excellent practice. You learn to steal your moments. None of this "waiting for the muse" stuff - if you have three minutes, you write for three minutes. I used to keep a notebook in my daughter's room. I would feed her with one hand and write with the other. My left-handed printing got pretty good.

This isn't to say every day was a resounding success. There were days I was so flattened that I was lucky to find the time and energy to run a brush through my hair. But I kept at it and used those good days as best I could.

IMHO, writing with a baby is doable. Balance being patient with yourself with the habit of writing whenever you can, and persist. And snuggle that little one again and again and again. And again.

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations, Laura! You must keep us informed so we can celebrate the big event with you (after all, you know the first thing on your mind during contractions will be "Muuust... tell... Janet..!!"). We could have a flash contest, or something. :)

While I have a bit of experience with raising children, I know my wife was much busier than me during those formative years. And this seems to be the case generally, even with the most attentive of husbands. However, there are plenty of new mothers who also find time to write. Of course, the needs of your child come first, but hopefully they will get into a fairly regular nap-pattern so you can take that time to get some writing done (shaking off the temptation to nap yourself). It'll take discipline, but it can be done.

All the best to you, and congrats again! :D

Karen McCoy said...

A question. If you are in a situation where you understandably need to put your job first, how can you be honest and authentic about your writing as a career without being dishonest in your job? Or is it a necessary line to tow? And at what point do you make that choice to do one thing well instead of two things not so well when making a full-time career at writing is as elusive as it is?

Laura Mary said...

Ah, thank you Amy and Colin :-)
Amy - you said just what I wanted to hear! Part of me has been imagining my 9 months off as a wonderful writing holiday, paired with hearing stories about mother's who haven't slept in weeks!
I am woefully naïve about what's to come (still praying for a stork to bring the baby!) but very pleased to hear that some kind of balance is achievable!
Will certainly keep you all posted!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Congratulations, Laura Mary. You can do it. I used to read my short stories or whatever I was reading to my daughter when she was a baby. This allowed me to nurture baby and my love of the written word. I also passed that love on to my baby. She could read by three. I didn't get much writing done in those years as I was on my own, a new mother, working, and in school. But it can be done.

And congratulations once more. If nothing else, you will get a new view of life and all the more to write about.

John Frain said...

If we're saying to OP, you can only do one thing well, we're saying the same to everyone. Similar to multi-tasking where you accomplish multiple things marginally well instead of one thing exceptionally well.

So does everyone need to look in a mirror and decide what their one thing is going to be? Or can we migrate between the two? So, best case, are there circumstances where you can be exceptional at two different things if you take them separately? Say, for example, you're a firefighter in your day job (I'm not, so I'm guessing here) and there aren't additional things to learn/practice when you're away from work where you practice the art of writing.

It doesn't allow you time to become a decent golfer or to join a gaming group or even clean your house very often, but maybe life allows you to be exceptional at a day job and exceptional at writing if you plan accordingly.

DLM said...

I'm with Colin, I really don't care to have an agent who's also a writer. Now, one who edits? Gimme, gimme. But even the ones whose published works consist of "how to get published" books for writers don't appeal so much. Often, I find querying them includes a whole lot of "read my book" and as willing as I am to follow guidelines, taking on term paper level homework assignments not related to a their selling my book bewilders more than excites me.

Many happy returns to Laura Mary and the growing family!

Karen - I write historical fiction, which can take a long time to produce as it is. Last year, I came off of over a DECADE spent writing my first novel, three bouts of querying it (with learning that indeed it wasn't finished - twice - in between), and realizing it is not a viable debut product. And I was over 35 when all this BEGAN.

In order to continue writing, after all that, I've applied a lesson I learned about that day job of mine which allows me the room to be a writer at all: I have stopped apologizing.

I used to apologize to myself and the world for being apparently intelligent and capable and being "ONLY" a secretary.

Now I have learned not to apologize for pretending I'm a writer when I'm not at it 8 hours a day (or 12 or 25).

I am the authentic author of MY work. Nobody else can do it, and if my standards are insufficient to anyone else's judgment of what a writer should be, or if I fail to meet their criteria, THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM.

All of the YOU'RE DOING IT WRONGers in the world cannot take away from me my *authorship*. See also, the guitarists at the back of the bar (http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/p/excerpt-authors-note.html).

My work is beautiful. (Even the novel now lying fallow.) It has depth and fascination. I've learned so much. And, in the end, even if I never "succeed" by the definition of getting published to the tune of Hilary Mantel's success, I will still have authored at least two excellent novels. Not many people have done that.

I do hope to publish. I expect to.

But I answer to and apologize to exactly *nobody* regarding the terms of how I do it.

Mark Thurber said...

Wow, you all are mind readers. After a particularly frustrating day yesterday, I was preparing for a "big wrestle" about these issues on my morning train commute. Then I check Janet's blog to find the big wrestle already in progress!

Like Theresa, my day job is in academia. Now that I spend many hours a day obsessing over imaginary characters, I find that I no longer attack it with the same gusto. But it has a lot of good points -- maybe I can learn to be happy with doing it "well enough"? (My other "job" as an occasional sailing instructor ain't never gonna pay the bills.)

I am so grateful to have found the wonderful community that Janet and you all have created! The flash fiction contests are a devastatingly effective gateway drug.

nightsmusic said...

I have a very low stress job that I do from the workplace, but I can't seem to engage my creativity there to write though I could. I have oodles of time to write and my boss doesn't care. I just can't. I driv an hour to work and an hour home and by the time I'm done with dinner, cleaning up, trying to get something done around the house...my brain goes on hiatus and that's that. I'm still trying to go through the story I'd mentioned was requested oh...eons ago now, it seems.

All that said, I don't know how one can effectively write when working in an atmosphere in the same genre. I would be afraid that I was subconsciously lifting ideas and such from the submissions I was reading. And I think, and this is just me, that it would be too easy to burn out in both the working and writing if you can't at least get away from it for a time.

But that's just me, a lowly minion.

stacy said...

Congratulations, Laura Mary!

Karen McCoy said...

Oh, Diane. Thank you. I really needed to hear that. I've been shaming myself for so long.

And you're right. The only way is to be your authentic, true self, no matter where you are in your current life's path.

And I'd love to read some of your historical fiction!

Lucie Witt said...

Laura,

Congratulations!!! That's a very exciting change.

I had my first child at 25. I'd written short stories, lots (I mean lots) of angsty poetry, and the start of many novels before my son was born. When he was an infant I finished my first novel (like Amy above). And this was while I was in law school! Yes, there were days when exhaustion took over, but the big take away is that you can do it. You really can. You might find, like I did, writing becomes the best way to connect to your self that is not strictly there to nurture someone else. Some days writing felt like my lifeline.

My biggest tips (though it's been awhile):

* Take advantage of nap time. Maybe this means you write, maybe it means you nap with them so you can have energy to write later
* When people offer help, take it
* Don't be afraid to ask for time and never, ever feel guilty for having some time to yourself
* If you feel morose or like you have an unusual, empty kind of writers block in the week's following your baby's birth, be mindful that baby blues/postpartum depression are a real thing. I experienced this with #2, and didn't realize it at first
* Be gentle with yourself. Accept that your normal might change. Kinda like running in extreme heat - you accept your mile time will increase. When you have a newborn, your word count might drop. Just trust that you'll find your new normal.

Best of luck. We're all cheering for you!

Lucie Witt said...

(Breaking the rules and commenting 4x to apologize - Laura Mary, not Laura - sorry!)

John Frain said...

DLM, I don't read historical fiction but I absolutely loved reading your post here. If that's any indication of your historical fiction, I bet I'd enjoy making an exception.

No point in repeating it, because I couldn't say it as well, but any Reiders who missed it should go back and read DLM's comment above. It speaks to so many of us, no matter the choices you've made.

Theresa said...

Congratulations, Laura Mary! I hope the new motherhood experience enriches your writing.

Brigid said...

Laura — oh congratulations!

John — FYI, firefighters do have some continuing ed, and they think about the job all the time. Lots of off-hours meetings and training, at least in the small district I was a part of. They also play with fire (matches, bonfires, Fireball, take your pick) all the time.

Dena Pawling said...


You definitely don't want a job like mine. I am a trial attorney, in court 3-4 days each week, and the other days in the office. I have to be 100% most of the time while in court, even when my trial is not a jury trial. Most days, I have anywhere between one and six trials to handle. I do end up settling most cases, which many times takes more energy than actually litigating. My managing partner conducted a jury trial last month, and he said he wishes he did more of them, because you have ONLY ONE TRIAL to think about.

I work all over SoCal, which means I spend many hours in the car, usually 2-3 hours per day. Audio books are awesome. I get much more reading done now, than I did at my previous job. I leave my house at 630 many days, and get home at 630. I get up at o-dark-thirty to have thirty minutes of writing time in the morning. I can sometimes steal writing time at lunch. I get home and give my work-at-home husband a break by shuffling kids to their various evening activities [three of my four kids are still at home, none drive].

I do lots of outlining and idea-notes by dictating or scribbling mostly-illegible notes while driving on the 405 and other freeways [motto – it takes four o' five hours to get where you're going].

I write because it's fun and the stories demand for me to write them so they don't clutter up my head while I'm in trial.

Listen to Janet and the others. Find a job that's not high stress, that you can leave at the office at the end of the day. Steal the time when you can, so your family doesn't whine at you that you're always at the computer and ignoring them. I know this first-hand because I was caught once typing on my tablet while my son played basketball. The look on his face told me never to do that again.

You can do it. Good luck.

And congrats to Laura Mary! Keep in mind, Nora Roberts got her start because her kids were driving her crazy at home on a snow day, so she started writing the stories in her head, and look where she is now =)

nightsmusic said...

Laura Mary! Congrats.

A couple of observations for you...

One, babies are adorable little things, but someday, they'll turn into teenagers.

Also, my theory for years has been that you lose a quarter of your mind with each child which is why people who have four don't mind having 6 or 8...

Good luck to you :)

Karen McCoy said...

Yes, read DLM's comment! Her journey speaks to so many of us. I greatly admire her ability to not only not apologize, but for her skill in using the lessons she's learned to help others.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Diane, well said. And much appreciated.

Sherry Howard said...

Congrats to Laura Mary! That's the best job you'll ever have!

I was a school principal for years (heaven bless early retirement) and couldn't have gotten my brain into that creative space for love or money during that era of my life. That's when you become a sponge and absorb all the things you'll incorporate in your future best-selling manuscripts.

I do think there are a small percentage of people (1% maybe) whose brains can handle multi-tasking on steroids. But, alas, we mortals have to choose a path. Better to do one thing with excellence than many things adequately.

Donnaeve said...

I too, love what Diane said. I think it's that sort of grit and determination along with a healthy dose of pride in the accomplishment which are crucial elements for writers. If you don't have that, you might give up. In this particular community, I sense nothing but commitment to their art, through and through.

Craig said...

Congrats Laura Mary, you will be great at your new career. Remember to tell the little one that you love them. Do it often.

I think the confusion here has to do with jobs and careers. A job is something 9-5. It does not hold you in thrall. What is a job for some is a career for others because we are all individual. When you find a career it will be a pleasure to give your time to it because it feeds on and in your emotions.

It is nigh on to impossible to hold two careers at the same time. One body does not really have that much emotional energy. Writing should be a career. The problem is that Joe Public doesn't give a flying... about quality craftsmanship. He wants cheap and disposable not something that needs the investment of their own emotion.

I would love nothing more than to build beautiful wood-strip boats but I would be broke if I went that way. So I have to sell those beautiful creations to people to mold and produce cheap copies of it.

That also says a lot about reading. People want a thrill or an escape from what they read. That is why badly written books sometimes do so well. I am sure Diane has done beautiful work but beautiful work doesn't pay the bills for many.

Amy Schaefer said...

John Frain, you make a good point. Rather than say: "you can only do one thing well," I'd look at it from the perspective of: "where do you choose to give your love?" Some people have a single focus; others want to spread their attention over a variety of things. That is a personal decision. We all have to make choices about where and how to direct our energy - that's why the old question of maintaining a work/home balance never dies.

For me, I try to keep a clear eye on my priorities in life. I do my best to devote most of my time and energy to the things I care about (family, writing, reading, getting out and experiencing life) and minimize or cut out the things that don't matter to me (acquiring things, watching TV). I think you can love your day job and your writing. It's possible the two are even complementary - when you need a break from one thing, you can turn to the other. How one handles a demanding life depends on the person.

Donnaeve said...

And, congratulations Laura Mary. A baby! You must be over the moon thrilled!

John Frain said...

Laura Mary,

Congratulations, and you're going to have to chime in to give us a date so we can start working on a story containing newborn, blanket, insanity, sleep-deprived and [INSERT NAME HERE].

Also, (I'm not sure of protocol and definitely don't want to pack for Carkoon, but here goes), I have finally acted on the advice of the Queen and other Reiders and started a blog that I'd like to add to the list in the right-hand column.

Colin, are you the master of such things?

Karen McCoy said...

Ooh, good one Amy. I'm going to have to remember that.

Colin Smith said...

NM: My wife and I resemble that remark! :)

OK, I know this is comment number four, but I HAVE to ask Janet this question. And it might be too intrusive to ask, in which case she is under no obligation to answer (like she's under any obligation to talk to any of us about anything!). And it is on-topic since Opie is considering a job as a literary agent. OK, here goes.

A while back (years), I made a comment that suggested Peter Rubie (CEO of FinePrint) is Janet's boss. Yes, you may wince. Her response was along the lines of "there are no bosses here"--indicating that each agent is their own boss. That got me wondering... how does that work, practically? And is this typical of literary agencies?

Let's say Opie gets a job at a literary agency.

1) Who hires Opie? i.e., who is the one who extends the offer of employment?
2) If Opie sucks, who fires Opie?
3) Does Opie's pay comes 100% from sale of books (that 15% we writers agree to give our agents), or does Opie get a base salary?
4) If Opie gets a base salary, who determines what that is?

And on a more general note:

5) If there isn't a boss, so to speak, who casts the vision for the agency? Who sets the budget, pays the bills (office space, utilities, liquor allowance), etc.?

The only thing I can think of that's remotely like what FinePrint appears to be is a law firm, where you have a partnership. But I'm not sure I understand exactly how that works. (Yes, I failed O'Level Economics. I told my Dad I would rather do O'Level Music--at least I could pass that. One of the few times as a teenager when I was right. For non-Brits, O'Levels = OWLs in Harry Potter--except you don't get to do Transfiguration. Of course Brits don't do O'Levels any more, it's all GSCEs and things. Not like in my day. Aye, when I were a lad... sorry... I digress...)

Janet--if you want to answer this, feel free to do so as a separate post, or here, or on the WiR... or not at all. I'm just insatiably curious. :)

Colin Smith said...

John: Yes! Email me the link to your blog and I'll be happy to add you to Carkoon's Most Wanted. :)

DLM said...

Aww, y'all. Karen and John, I'd be overjoyed to share; Angie B-A has read it, and was most kind. AND you and EMG and Donna have me all gooey in my stupid heart. If what I said is actually helpful, I am honestly humbled. (Savor it; it happens only rarely.)

Dena, that Nora Roberts bit is WONDERFUL. And I expect to have a snow day on Monday.

I think there is a difference between multi-tasking and compartmentalizing. It's not that it is not possible to wear two hats, but if you want to avoid the tabloid cruelty, you figure out which hat suits which occasion. My day job doesn't leak into my personal life much, and I try not to let my personal life happen at work - but sometimes, I have to go to my boss and tell him, ya know, my dying family member is worrying me and I am distracted, I'm going to leave at 4:30 - and sometimes, I have to check my email when I'm at home on the couch watching Victor Victoria. I mean, WRITING. Ahem.

There IS such a thing as balance. But Janet's point is that, in order to achieve it, you can't weight one side of the scale TOO heavily. It'll never be perfect, and we all have our shortfalls and successful days. This is another one of those things you can't condemn yourself for.

Craig, I think there *is* room for quality, and it can even do really well. But your point that this is an industry is key, and it actually lies behind my own post above - I want to participate in this industry. BUT, if I die without fulfilling that hope, that won't render my life wasted time. I don't even consider the decade I spent on AX to be wasted, though it hurt like hell letting go.

Few writers will ever pay the bills with novels. Yet here we all are, striving anyway - balancing, multi-tasking, what have you. For me, the trying is exciting; I was never ambitious much before I believed I could write and publish a novel, and the belief has had a powerful effect on my bill-paying career.

Nothing exists in a vacuum.

luciakaku said...

I've got a wide set of interests. Writing is the longest standing and most persistent, but that didn't stop me from applying for a teaching job in Japan. My life is lived in a foreign language, now; I have over 600 kids spread out over seven schools; and I'm fighting a system that doesn't think phonics is necessary to learning English (yeah RIGHT) and that two years in elementary school studying English once a week should add up to no English skill (over my dead body).

And my writing has suffered abominably.

My kids are the best English readers in the city, which is a huge consolation, but the Board of Education just sees me breaking rules, taking over classes, and being a pushy American (so very not Japanese), so my contract is up. I'm heading home in August, and frankly, I'm ready. Time to buckle down on my writing.

Opie, if you think you can do both, go for it. Lots of stories about how it's totally possible to write while having a hugely demanding job. But QOTKU made another point: if both of your jobs are in the same industry, you can't effectively network. Are you an agent or a writer? People in publishing expect different things from both of them. People in general expect different things from teachers and writers, too, but those two don't have to work together in the same industry.

This is all just advice, though. You do you. And when you make your choice, like Diane said, don't apologize for it. Kill it.

P.S. Congratulations, Laura Mary!

Laura Mary said...

Thank you for all your lovely comments and well wishes, not to mention the sage advice!
I'm due on 20th June, and because we can only agree on girls' names, it is bound to be a boy.
I best skip off now and let talk resume to the topic at hand!

BJ Muntain said...

I've always wanted to write. When I was in university, I wished I had a real job, so I'd have more time writing. When I graduated and got a real job in a library, I wished I could go back to school, so I'd have more time for writing. Then I went back to school again, and realized that there really is no time out there.

My suggestion is: choose your dream, and go after it.

Lucie: "When you put a lot on your plate something will inevitably fall off." <-- This. Perfect. Exactly. Bingo.

Also, to paraphrase: a man (or any human) can't serve two masters. He'll love one and hate the other. Or he'll be devoted to one, and let the other one slide.

As for the literary agents who are also writers? I think you'll find that they worked as agents for some time before they were published. They know their way around publishing, and they don't have to work as hard at it. Like Lucie, talking about teaching. After awhile, things get sorted out, lesson plans are worked out to be re-used each year, and the person generally knows better what they are doing. Then they're in a position where they can decide if agenting will be their day job or their career.

Laura Mary: Congratulations!

Karen: One thing I found was that, if you want to make writing a career while you're working full time, you have to understand that it's going to take longer. If you think that starting a career takes a certain number of hours, and if you can only afford an hour or two a day, rather than eight or more, it's going to take longer. Unfortunately, writing doesn't compress into the time you have available. You just have to make sure that you spend that time productively.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

As most of the others have said, please listen to Janet. I don't like querying agents who write novels or have interns who are writers. I dislike it so much I won't even query them. I don't want to be the client of an agent who decides she'd rather spend all her time writing, so she or he stops agenting. I've seen that happen, and I don't want to be one of those clients who reads her agent is quitting the business to write.

I just think it's poor business to mix the two

Laura Mary, first off congratulations, enjoy the wee one and take lots of pictures. They grow up before you know it. Diana Gabaldon wrote Outlander with three children under the age of six and two jobs. It's possible to get something accomplished even with limited time. Just train your brain to write in those pockets. Babies usually settle into a routine so you'll know you should have from x to x available because it's nap time.

Donna, I can sympathize with you about the kitchen. My youngest son and I did all the remodel on the old house. We gutted it to the outside walls and started new. I rebuilt all the interior walls because nothing was on 16" centers. All the interior walls were sheetrock or fiberboard over gorgeous heart pine boards. I decided to save the boards, cut them to even widths, rabbet them, plane and sand them down and use them for wainscot or accent walls. That slowed down the rebuild tremendously.

Then, I decided to build my own cabinets because I had 9' ceilings and stock cabinets wouldn't fit properly, plus, I didn't want that particle board crap in my cabinets. So, I bought a book and taught myself to make cabinets. It takes longer to do things when you're learning on the job.

My ex said I couldn't have a stove to cook on until I finished remodeling the kitchen. He did, of course, expect to have meals cooked. The stove would be my reward for finishing the kitchen. After three years of no stove I decided to heck with that noise and bought one with my money from the magazine. Not having a stove is the pits.

Argh, I have been trying to wean myself off this place, but there are so many good comments today. I shall return after my date with the hourglass.

Adib Khorram said...

My day job is in graphic design. It stretches different creative muscles (most of the time), but still, I've definitely found myself at work the day after I write a really good scene, staring at my computer trying to figure out what to do about graphics. And vice-versa—the last month I've been doing a huge project and whenever I think about writing I feel burned out. December-January is usually my time off writing because that same project rolls around every year at the same time.

I am in the boat with Colin (leery of querying agents that also write) and I know I'm not the only writer who feels this way.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Hi, all! I'm a longtime reader and a new commenter. It's nice to meet you! :)
I work as a technical writer during the day, and even that can drain my creative juices sometimes. Sometimes I can spend an hour trying to phrase a single paragraph in the perfect way - so when I get home and sit at my laptop, the last thing I want to do is struggle through a difficult scene. However, I know that I'm honing useful skills. I just need to find the balance between writing at work and writing at home.
Although I will add that it's much easier to find time to write as an 8-5er than as a student. I barely got any personal writing done in college.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Today's Post? Probably the best advice anyone, everyone can ever hear. No one ever wants to hear it and denies/prolongs the choice, but it is true - humans cannot maintain two identities in any situation for the long term without paying huge costs (not just monetary). If you have children, teaching them how to select the thing they want/do well, and not being sidetracked by other good things, is the best parenting you can do. "Everything can be good to do, but not all is good for YOU to do."

Life is in stages, not "have it all at all times". There's a time for everything, in its season. Sound familiar? Old words ring true even in this day and age where we have modern conveniences.

Thanks Janet for the reminder :)

nightsmusic said...

Hello Bethany Elizabeth! Welcome to the group :)

Donnaeve said...

Rule breaker that I am, (this is my 4th time), but I want to weigh in again on the topic du jour, real quick and use Diane's phrase from yesterday - meaning that since I have an agent AND a book deal, might I speak out of authority and experience?

Some of you will know some of this already as I'm about to state things I've commented on before over the course of time on QOTKU's blog.

Facts:
-I worked for a large communications company that declared Chp 11 bankruptcy in 2009.
-I had 80 pgs of a book written, something I worked on over the course of ten years on and off - usually when I got pissed off at something that happened at the job. (I'll write this, sell it and QUIT!)
-Soon, it was clear company wouldn't recover from Chp 11. All assets would be sold.
-I was determined to stick around as long as they'd have me.
-I decided to get a degree.
-I dusted off the Hot Mess called the beginnings of a book.
-I worked my day job - sometimes logging 50 hours a week.
-I did school work at night.
-Any downtime in between, I wrote.
-2011, I finished school with a Bach. Sci. in Bus Mgmt. (yes, that was a 4 yr degree in 3 yrs - I still can't figure out how I did that.)
-2012, I was handed my walking papers (March 30th to be exact)
-2012, I signed with an agent three weeks prior to leaving job

I only repeat this b/c there is good advice above about choosing what you love to do, and placing your energy there, but I wanted to also point out if you can think of ways to distribute/diversify your energy, you'll find the time to balance it all out. I think most of us don't realize how deep the well is, until we have to keep going back to it for more and more.

Karen McCoy said...

BJ. Exactly. And especially meaningful coming from another librarian! It took me a few years to figure out, but I'm happy to be in this for the long haul.

Using my fourth (and last) comment to thank you.

Amy Schaefer said...

Last comment from me: I think most people have identified time as the primary issue here. If you're okay with only writing thirty minutes a day (or ten, or three), you can fit it into almost anyone's life. If you want to write five hours a day (or eight or ten), something else has to give. Write a book a month or a book a decade - just make it your best.

Colin Smith said...

I know I'm well over my comment limit, but... new commenter! Please, O Mighty QOTKU?? *makes sad, puppy dog eyes* :D

Hi, Bethany Elizabeth and welcome!! I got my start in IT as a technical writer. It was my first job in the US. I knew this writing thing would come in handy one day... ;)

Kat Waclawik said...

Laura Mary: Congratulations! I just gave birth to my little girl 11 weeks ago. (Eleven weeks?! It seriously does go so fast!) I had all these grand ideas about using my maternity leave to make a serious dent in the WIP. Ha. That was crazy. I think I had two main problems:

The first, obviously, is time. Newborns consume all of it. I know you've heard the old adage about sleeping when the baby sleeps. My favorite response to that: so am I also supposed to do laundry when the baby does laundry, dishes when the baby does dishes, etc.? There is SO MUCH TO DO, and so little time when your arms are not full of baby. Besides, if you're anything like me, you need sleep to be creative. Writing takes mental energy. Don't worry--it gets better!

My other problem (which is not a real problem) is I've just been too darn happy. We tried to conceive for five years before finally having success with IVF. She is everything I'd ever dreamed of and prayed for and more. I couldn't make conflict for my characters when my entire world was floating in a rosy, baby-scented haze. Now that I'm back at work part time, I've relearned how to make trouble for my characters.

In her first 8 weeks of life, I wrote about 100 words. I was really beating myself up about not writing, which was dumb. So I hereby give you permission to take a break, if it's what you need. You still get to call yourself a writer. Your stories will be there when you're ready.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Hello Bethany E! Welcome, and thank you for sharing your experience - it sounds like you understand very well what it takes to be a writer - "I just need to find the balance between writing at work and writing at home."

Balance. It's a neverending process, and rarely does the scale of life register "even" sides, but it's the best system us humans have right now :)

Kate Larkindale said...

Today's topic really spoke to me. I just wish I could find a job I could shut down from at the end of the day that would pay the same as the job I currently have...

For almost 10 years I've written seriously while working jobs that never stop. I thought the new job I started 13 months ago would be better because the hours are more regular, but if anything, it's been more all consuming and stressful than the 60 hour a week job I did for the years before that. And you're right. You can't be excellent at two things that require that level of dedication and energy.

I think I need to do some serious thinking about my future.

Elissa M said...

I think it's possible to be good at two different skill sets, but the skills have to be complimentary. The best example (for me, anyway) is painting and writing. Both are creative endeavors, but each uses a different side of the brain.

Still, if you want a career, you have to focus. It's very hard to build a brand and gain recognition in two separate careers at the same time. Plus, as Janet mentioned, time is a factor. There are only so many hours in a day, and you need to sleep.

Everyone I know who's recognized in two disciplines focused on one job first, got known in that, then worked on the other career (while still keeping busy in the first). And everyone I know who did that has worked their respective tails off. They pretty much did the two-fer thing only because they couldn't NOT do it. Either they were driven to do both, or they needed the income from one to support the other.

Panda in Chief said...

When I graduated with my shiny new MFA in painting, I made the attempt to find university level teaching jobs. Alas, being one of 400-800 applicants for each position made that an idea that fizzled quickly. In the end, I'm happy that it turned out that way, because most of the professors in the art department had not done any significant work that I could see, with only a few exceptions.

I made the decision to only seek menial work that I could leave at the job when I went home for the day becuase I knew I couldn't do two i portant things well. There are times now as I reqch what might have been my retirement age when I say to myself, "dang, would have been nice to have a pension or something like that" but as I've noticed in the news, those have gone the way of the dodo, Thirsday anext, not withstanding.

Janet is right that being an agent and being a writer are not only too closely related, they are both completely consuming. Of course now I am trying to be a writer and a painter, but I'm pretty sure that is completely different. Ha ha! What is true is that my painting work ebbs and flows, and that as a result of the economic crash, I am in far fewer galleries than I used to be. Plus, since my writing is also using my visual skill (PB, GN, & comics) it's all part of the same creative pool. That's my story and I'm sticking to that.

Of course, there is nothing that says you can't keep your writing chops up while being an amazing agent, but I would not try to be out in the world as both at the same time, if you know what I mean.

Congrats to Laura Mary!

Panda in Chief said...

Dang typos.

Charlotte Grubbs said...

Oof, I needed this. I've been entertaining the idea of looking for a job at an agency or with a publisher, because I love the idea of helping to shape books and introducing those books to the world, and also because even reading slush sounds appealing after scoring the essay section of tens of thousands of standardized tests (plus, the skill set is probably similar).

But, you're right, for me the writing would and will always come first, and if I had a chance to quit my day job - whatever that job is, and no matter how much I loved it - in order to write full time, I'd do so in a second. No thinking required.

Lennon Faris said...

This post made me laugh because it is so, so true. I think about my characters and story all the time. It is a great way to get away from the more serious aspects of a day job! Or life :P

Laura Mary congratulations :) I remember sitting in the dark at the top of the steps at 5 am, laptop on my knees and fervently typing away after baby woke up and I couldn't get back to sleep (and didn't want to wake husband). I had a spike in creative thinking those first few months and the most compelling drive to write that I've ever experienced. I have no idea why, but there were so many times I thought, 'I am so glad I have my story.' As much as I love being a mom, it was good to have something else to think about!

Pam Powell said...

One day my IT consulting ran into a problem. I could see the Payroll Manager’s lips move but had no idea what he was saying. I was in the middle of a train robbery in 1870, figuring how to make the scene work.

From then on, either my IT hat or my writing hat was on my head, not both. As BJ said, one cannot serve two masters. Consulting became my help as well as my hindrance. For months I would consult, then a break would come when I could write, living off my savings.

The downside? During one break, I resolved to change a screenplay into a play only to find I’d already done that! That break, I marketed the play and got it produced but the production should have happened long before.

The exception to the one-hat rule: if I was tech writing, I could also write creatively. Bethany Elizabeth (welcome!) and other tech writers – there is hope!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the welcome, everyone!

I think a lot of what it comes down to (at least for me!) is energy. When I'm doing work that energizes me during the day, I have an easier time writing at night. If I'm working on a project that drains my energy, then I don't write at all when I get home.

And thank you, Pam! I'm glad there's hope for tech writers. :) The good thing about tech writing is that I'm learning useful skills without draining my creativity.

SiSi said...

Congratulations Kat and Laura Mary! I love Kat's advice to allow yourself time just to enjoy and be happy--even if there isn't a newborn around.

Like some others here, I'm also in academics, and I find that after all the school work I have very little time left in my day. And absolutely no energy.

I tried to write everyday, but mostly I stared at the computer screen and got very frustrated with myself for not being focused and creative. Other people wrote lots of beautiful words in much worse circumstances, so what was wrong with me?

Now I no longer try to write everyday--during the week I focus on teaching. On the weekend, I don't do any school work and focus on my writing. That leaves my evenings for friends and family. I've learned to give myself a break, and to keep my focus on one thing at a time, and it's made me happier and better at both jobs.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

68 comments, no time to read them all now so I'll comment, and apologize right up front, if I repeat what someone else already has said.

Write and be an agent?

The queen knows that of which she speaks.
And, do your research, one name, Nathan Bransford.

Just remember:

YOU CAN DO IT ALL, YOU JUST CAN'T DO IT ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Mona Zarka said...

This is a wonderful discussion. So much of what everyone's said has resonated with me.

Congrats, Laura Mary! And Kat!

And to Lucia書く: 頑張ってね! ^_^ 日本に住んで働いて行くのは夢の一つです。

kdjames.com said...

I'm having all sorts of mixed feelings/thoughts about this. This person says she is currently working in publishing and has worked as an intern at a literary agency. So I assume she knows the workload and intensity involved. Maybe she has found it not to be a drain on her creativity? And I think that's the key.

I've worked jobs (finance) that were intensely demanding in terms of energy and time, all while raising kids and writing. I like to think I did all three pretty damn well. But it was a matter of focus. When I was doing one, I wasn't (usually) stressing about the other two. There was no question of bringing work home, as it was sensitive/private and had to be done IN the office.

But I've also had jobs, as well as life situations, where the stress and worry followed me everywhere. I had one job where cutbacks meant I had to not only crunch numbers but also handle some face-to-face customer service, which as an extreme introvert I found draining and exhausting. Added to anger and resentment over poor management, it killed my creativity. I'd come home with just enough energy to sit and stare at the wall.

So I think it depends. If you're working 12-hour days and come home feeling like you have enough creative energy to write, go for it. Even with 8 hours of sleep (HA!), that still leaves 4 for managing other priorities. If writing is a priority, you'll write. A friend of mine has a saying: "If you want something done, give it to a busy person."

My bigger concern is the whole networking thing. Like it or not, there's an "Us vs Them" vibe between writers and agents/publishers. To be blunt, I'd be leery about openly discussing writing-type stuff with a writer who was also one of "Them." I'm sure that's all kinds of wrong and makes me a horrible person. But it's true. I don't know what I'd do without my writer (and reader) friends. Probably lose what's left of my sanity. It's a tough position to put yourself in and I'd really think twice about that.

But that's my opinion from the writer's side of things. You really need to pay attention to what Janet is saying from the potential employer side of it, since that affects whether anyone would even hire you.

Sorry for being so wordy. Every time I tried to edit, it got longer. *sigh*

Congratulations to Kat and Laura Mary for the new and impending motherhood! Wishing you both the time and energy for all the important things in life, whatever they may be.

Welcome, Bethany (and all the other new names I see)! Good to hear new voices over here.

Katie Loves Coffee said...

Following Janet's own rules, I'm going to Be Brave (and hope that this disclaimer keeps me from eating kale chips in Carkoon!), and maybe add a different perspective. I love my very difficult, demanding day job. Truly love it. But I also love writing. Writing is how I unwind from my day (after putting the kids to bed), even if its only 15 minutes at a time. I escape into the world I write and maybe some day I'll get published. And maybe I won't. Knowing the odds of getting published are small won't stop me from trying and I also won't let myself get discouraged when fundamentally, I'm trying to sell art. And art is subjective.

Writing a great book is laudable (seriously, pat yourself on the back - it's hard work), but just the beginning. Getting an agent and getting published are both amazing, but still don't guarantee success. My book may get published but not sell. I've read that you have to get at least 3 books published before you can consider it a job (yikes!). I don't know if that's true, but isn't there some merit is pursuing a career in a field you love, in case you don't ever get to sell your book? Or sell it at a level where it is the only thing you do? I'd hate to see the OP miss out on their calling because they also love to write. That said, you have to understand that your pace of writing is going to get slower or you will have to get more efficient about the time you spend writing. And couldn't that be ok too?

Colin Smith said...

Really, this is my last comment, and I'm only commenting because I don't think anyone has addressed my "conflict of interest" point. And maybe it's a moot point--it would never happen. But here's what I mean.

Hypothetical situations:

1) Agent Felix has been repping mysteries for 10 years. He decides he wants to write a mystery, so he does: MURDER ON KALE STREET. It's polished and ready to submit to some agent friends he think would be interested. Next morning, he's going through his inbox when he comes across a flawless query for a mystery that sounds like direct competition for MURDER ON KALE STREET. If it wasn't for the fact he had just written this novel, he might have requested pages, and perhaps even offered rep. Conflict.

2) MURDER ON KALE STREET finds an agent and is ready to go out on submission. Then one of Felix's clients presents him with a wonderful manuscript for a novel not unlike MURDER ON KALE STREET. Does he withdraw his own manuscript so he can fully support his client (after all, publishers probably wouldn't take his book AND his client's book too)? Or does he favor his own work in the interest of his own writing career?

Given that agents rep what they know best, then I would expect writer-agents to write in that same genre. Which is why I would be concerned about such conflicts of interest.

Am I way off, or is this a valid concern?

OK. That's it for today. Sorry for the rule-breaking, and thanks for your indulgence everyone! :)

luciakaku said...

Colin, as to situation 1, I'm not entirely sure that's all that different from one of the other major reasons agents don't request: they have something similar on their desk right now. Yes, Writer Agent's book would be repped by another agent, but that doesn't really change the reason too much. "This isn't for me because there's something similar hanging around" is pretty common from what I hear.

And with number 2, it sounds like the timelines are totally different. Writer Agent's book is ready to go on submission to publishers, while Client has only just shown the new manuscript to Writer Agent. Unless I'm totally wrong here, it'll be a while before the Client's MS gets anywhere near submission. That might not disqualify it from being a conflict of interest, but since publishing moves so slowly, they might not crisscross much at all.

Aside from addressing those specific examples, it's a matter of ethics. If you're concerned what you're doing is unethical, it probably is. Stop.

Mona, うわ!日本語しゃべる?めずらしいね〜 友達になろうよ ^_^
すてきな夢。お互いに頑張ろう。何か手伝って上げることがあったら教えてね

Mister Furkles said...

Opie,

Were I young and looking for a career that is conducive to a writer's life, this is what I'd do:

1. Make a list of current popular writers you like.
2. Check what careers or jobs they had before becoming full time writers.
3. Replace any who held jobs you cannot do or would hate doing.
4. When you have about twenty who held jobs or careers you can do, see if there is a trend.

For example, John Grisham and Steve Berry were lawyers. Maybe you can't go to law school or would hate doing that. Stephen King was a teacher. If there is no trend, add a few more.

Eventually, you should see some job you'd like or at least tolerate and that is the career direction I'd go.

kdjames.com said...

Colin, I've heard that speculation too, that a certain ms is "too similar" to something else already repped or published and . . . I'm calling bullshit. I think it's a polite excuse for something that isn't quite good enough.

Maybe I'm hopelessly naive, but I abhor this notion that writers are in competition with each other. I don't understand where that comes from. It's contrary to every single experience I've had as a writer. And as a reader.

There will never be a book so good, so perfect and memorable, that I won't ever have to read another. Likewise, I sincerely doubt there is a book (or writer) so awesome that an agent will never need to rep another or a book so profitable that a publisher will never have to publish another. There is always room for more good writers. Because there will always be readers who want more stories.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...


Donna, it's okay if some people can't include HTMl. By showing all those who can include html, there will be more of us who can help those who can't.

Laura Mary, I've done that career change. the DotCom crash bereft me of my full-time IT career. Just happened to fall pregnant with a keeper two months later. I will tell you anything you want to know about writing books and wraising babies.

Eventually the newborns settle into a routine. If you include some sort of "Quiet Time" for the child in that routine, you can use that as your writing time. Do not expect anything more than twenty minutes, possibly divided into two or three segments.

Do not use naptime as writing time. Naptime for baby should be naptime for you, or at the very least reading time.

Bethany Elizabeth, welcome.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

And because I'm in Australia and everyone else is asleep, I get to post two comments in a row.

Burnout is a serious issue. Mastery is also a serious issue.

We want to be masters of whatever it is we love. That requires hours and hours of work. It also requires regular practice--every day if we can. Doesn't matter if it's writing, agenting, piano, astronomy, karate. We need to do lots every day.

We also need to take a break from the craft we are mastering. This is why so many successful humans have hobbies. Our brains and our hearts need to stretch in different directions.

If you work all day at one career, then work all night at a second, almost identical career, when is your downtime? Where is the rest your brain and heart needs?

Also, question your reasons for pursuing an agenting career. Are you doing this because you really, truly want to be an agent, or are you doing this because you want to be published, and this is placing you in the heart of the publishing industry?

Unless it's what you well and truly want, being an agent by day and a writer by night is a good recipe for disappointment at the least and permanent burnout at the worst.

What would happen if you put your writing aside and simply focused on the publishing side of things for now? Could you do that? Because if you can't, don't.

No one has to sing all the verses of their life at the same time.

Also, whatever career you choose in your twenties will most likely change in your forties. Look at Queen Guitarist Brian May who became renowned Astrophysicist Dr. Brian May.

P.S.: I work IT as my day job. The last thing I want to do when I get home is fix another computer. Some day this won't be an issue, as I am phasing out my day job in favour of my writing career.

Meanwhile, to keep me sane, I have my music and my stars.

Megan V said...

Congrats Kat and Laura Mary!

Welcome Bethany and others!

Not much to add here, but I am curious about Opies motivations. Is Opie interested in Agenting (or work in publishing) as a career or in the perceived benefits such positions would give them as a writer?

Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves the all important 'why?'even though the 'why' affects our ability to succeed and flourish.

It's easy to say 'hey, why not?' It's far more difficult to explain 'this is why' AND understand that the 'why' might not be good enough.





Mona Zarka said...

Lucia, こちらこそ!びっくりですね!日本語を少しだけ勉強しましたから、間違えて変なことを言ったらすみませんね。内緒ですけど、私は作家じゃなくてさ、ただ読むのが大好きです。ですから、読者の私が何かでき上げる事があったら、ぜひ教えて下さいね!文法のエディティングもよくします。(^_-)

長い返事すみません!

luciakaku said...

Mona,うん!びっくりした!
で、なんで内緒なの?モナさんみたいな人はいないと困るよ!^_~ 読者が大好きよ〜 ありがとう。いつか頼むかもしれない

>.>
<.<
Does anyone else speak Japanese, or can I claim this is all on topic and avoid a trip to Carkoon? *scuffs toe* I got excited...

Pam Powell said...

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said:
No one has to sing all the verses of their life at the same time.


I like that!

Sign me Singing! But, alas, luciakaku and Mona Zarka, not in Japanese.

LynnRodz said...

Over 80 comments and some in Japanese to boot! I started learning Japanese years ago, but abandoned it. I'm glad you two, Lucia and Mona, have found a support system with one another. That is, if I understood correctly.

Anyway, to the topic at hand, I basically skimmed the comments, but agree with John, I think we can be great at more than one thing. It takes discipline and determination. Actually, I think the more people have on their plate, the more organized they are to get things done. Unlike many here, the more time I seem to have on my hands, the less time I find to do things.

As for OP, I'm sure you'll take Janet's advice.

Mona Zarka said...

いつでもいいですよ!

Ah, that was fun. It was totally on topic, Lucia. *whistles innocently and avoids eye contact*

LynnRodz, you got it! Now join our secret society. *rubs hands together gleefully*

I also think it's true that the busier you are, the more organized—but only to a certain extent. Then it's just stress stress stress.

Sam Hawke said...

Congrats Laura Mary!

My biggest tip would just be to go easy on yourself. You might find your baby sleeps pretty well and hence you can sleep with her (and then be well rested and perky when you're both up) or she might decide she only wants naps for 20 minutes at a time, and only when you hold her in THIS PARTICULAR WAY or there is screaming. You might find you're full of storytelling ideas, or that you can't think past an hour away. Everyone is different. Every mother, every kid. You do what works for you.

Be prepared to cut yourself more slack than you've probably ever done before, because parenting can be hard, it can be exhausting, it will be delightful, and it may take all your energy. It is OK to not have the creative energy to do much during those early times. It is OK to have a kid with no routine. If you ever have a time where you should not beat yourself up for not getting much accomplished, it's now.

I achieved nothing in the year after our first child was born. He fed for long stretches, barely slept, was engaged and beautiful and amazing, and I could barely answer emails, let alone write books. But the year after, having become the master of being awake at all hours of the night, I began to get up at 5am and write. I finished the novel I'd started TEN YEARS before. I had another baby, then edited the novel. Then I submitted it and found an agent. Now, because my boys will hunt me down if I am up at 5, I write at night when they're asleep.

Some people I know couldn't get anything done when they had small kids in the house. Some others I know wrote multiple novels with an infant. You do what you can.

I know Robin Hobb and Pat Rothfuss are doing a panel together at an upcoming convention on writing with small children in the house - if there is a transcript available I'll link it here after it happens!

Congratulations again.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Wow, you guys! Fantastic discussion here, and I totally agree with the whole 'can't be committed to both' theme here.
Congratulations to Kat and Laura Mary! Motherhood is an absolute blast, and I wish I'd written while my babies were younger. But I worked part time and was completing my Masters, so yeh - you can't have everything! But when I was reading your post, Laura Mary, I remembered this post by Delilah S.Dawson on Chuck Wendig's blog: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/01/13/delilah-s-dawson-25-writing-hacks-from-a-hack-writer/ (I know you're way past your comment limit, Colin, so perhaps someone else can linkify these for me...?) where she spoke about first writing when she was at home with her newborn. However you want to write though - or not write, and NOT feel guilty because you'll never get those days / weeks / months back ever again - just be you. Being true to yourself is always the best course of action, I've found :)
And nightsmusic, I hear you! Although I don't have that problem at work (the time to be creative but not the clarity of head space) I have that problem with the afternoons / evenings, with countless interruptions but still tiny pockets of time here and there until all three kids are abed. I've found that instead of getting new words written, I can manage enough concentration to get a paragraph edited. Or half a paragraph. Or a sentence. I have just enough focus to get something small done, which not only makes me feel like I'm making progress, but also means that there's one paragraph less to edit, when I *do* get the time to have a concentrated block of 'writing time'. And seeing as you have a sympathetic boss, it might be worthwhile trying? Anyway, just a thought. Feel free to ignore it completely :)

nightsmusic said...

There will never be a book so good, so perfect and memorable, that I won't ever have to read another.

I LOVE this! Love, love, love it! I cannot imagine stopping reading after some of the great books I've already read. If anything, it drives me to read even more.

Kae, I'm trying. And my boss doesn't care if I go through my MS by hand. I do that anyway. Electronic editing on a first pass for me just doesn't work.

And...are Mona and Lucia talking about the rest of us and we don't know it? ;) I'm jealous. If I'd had someone to speak Gaelic with after my grandparents and mother passed, I'd still speak it now. Alas...

Kae Ridwyn said...

Oh, NM, I'm sorry! I NEVER meant to imply that you weren't trying!!! I absolutely did NOT meant to cause you any offense - sorry!!! (And yes, I can't edit electronically either.)
btw, I like 'NM' - it *is* easier than typing 'nightsmusic' - especially when commenting on my phone, like I was yesterday. Perhaps I should follow your example and be 'KR'? :)

Panda in Chief said...

Colin's hypothetical situations brought up another thought for me. Both writing and agenting are both long games. It takes time to develop your skill as a writer and your contacts and sales as an agent. I want an agent that is going to help grow my career and not quit suddenly because now their other career is taking off. Life happens and things change, I get that. But if going in to the agent thing, you are thinking, "when I get my writing career off the ground, I am out of here," well, that's not the agent I really want.

Figure out which of those things you want most and work towards that. Being an agent is not a disposable job and you would have clients counting on you.

nightsmusic said...

Oh, Kae! I'm sorry if my comment came across that I was upset. Not at all. I just can't do a first edit electronically. I end up copying, pasting, deleting, moving stuff when really, what I need to be focusing on is the story for the first pass. No, I do most of my editing by hand. I just have no brain at the end of the day.

I'm upset with myself for not writing as much as I'd like, but that's another story altogether. Before I went back to work this last time, I would sit at the computer and let the movie that was my story run through my head and just transcribe it to get it all on paper. Since I started working full time again, the screen seems to have burned out :(