Do you keep a diary (or “journal” since we are serious writers)? Strangely, I did for years, and I say strangely, because I always hated it. What kind of idiotic behavior was that?
Is there any satisfaction in speaking when no one hears what you say? Sometimes, probably yes. Human beings have an innate need to express our thoughts and feelings. Why this is true is a complete mystery to me. Why is it not sufficient, if we feel something strongly, to simply feel it inside? But if we are to be healthy, those feelings must literally come out of the body. That exit may be through frowning, screaming, throwing plates against a wall, painting a picture, writing a poem, or calling a friend on the telephone.
Sometimes when thoughts or feelings have come out of the body, we feel relief and are satisfied. Writing in a diary that no one will ever read is enough. But at other times we need more, to feel that someone heard us. Then mere expression is not enough. Then we need communication with other people.
I have been told to take satisfaction from writing just from the pleasure of doing it. Honestly, though, it’s not that pleasurable. It really is work, and often I force myself to do it, both physically and mentally. I do not know why I write. I know I must do it, however, or I will, by God, throw furniture through windows.
And it is not enough to simply do it. I cannot be satisfied with writing without readers, and not just a couple of friends who will tell me they really like it. Publishing is necessary, and unfortunately, publishing literary writing is extremely difficult. The difficulty can be diminished by working with a literary agent, but the drawback is that one of them has to actually agree to work with you.
So I seek an agent. I’ve gone through three periods of intensive agent search. The first time, after 70 letters, I actually signed with an agent, who I was with for about three years. I felt comfortable with her, and we worked well together, but nothing came of it, and we parted amicably. I thought she honestly tried to help me, but she was also new as an agent, and probably had few contacts. I do not hesitate to add that what I gave her was perhaps not very sellable.
I later tried to find an agent with a second novel, but after sending out around 90 letters, I grew discouraged and stopped. Now I have drastically revised the first novel into a different book entirely, and I am trying again. If I had written a different kind of book, it would be easier to sign with someone, as another book might be perceived as easier to sell, and of course that is what an agent is thinking of. However much that person may love literature, they also must pay their rent. Trying to find an agent is a debilitating process, emotionally draining at times, and if you wish to shed some of the baggage of self confidence, I highly recommend it.
Here are some aspects of my own process. I began with a well-known book from the bookstore, Literary Market Place, which I had first looked at in a library, when I knew nothing. From that book, I chose as many agents as I could find who seemed suitable and I began sending them letters and a synopsis of the book. Later, I went online and found websites that listed agents, so I expanded my list and stopped using the book.
Now I have a list of around 200 agents, with contact information, what they want, and so on. Previously I have contacted agents ten at a time, pushing to contact as many as possible as quickly as possible. In my current situation, spending the days looking for a job, there is only so much of this shit I can handle, so I contact agents more slowly, several a week.
And then I wait for them to tell me no. Or to tell me nothing. In a later post I will go into more detail about this process, to talk about useful websites, writing a synopsis, and so on. If, in the meantime, you are anxious to go ahead and experience what it is like, take a hammer and hit yourself in the head every day. This will give you some sense of the daily satisfaction it brings.