What happens after?

Hearing yes from an agent was the dream. It was quickly followed by lots of other dreams (sign with a publisher, get optioned for TV, write books forever in a cabin by a lake) BUT the agent one was important. Agents are the gatekeepers, the stepping stone to a thousand other dreams. If I wanted my books out in the world and in the hands of readers, then getting an agent was non-optional.

I’ve written a bit more about the frankly harrowing (or for the less melodramatic, mildly unpleasant) process of trying to get an agent here. In short, I did not have a very fun time. I was rejected a lot. I wrote many books, unsure that any of them would see bookshelves. I felt alone and broken down.

Through it all, I kept hold of that one dream. I would keep writing and querying until I got myself an agent.

And then I got this email:

That is all I read before I fell down on the ground. I stayed there for a while. I had wanted this thing for so long, had worked passionately for it, and it was finally happening. It was unbelievable.

I’m writing this post now because it was exactly a year ago today that I went to Jo Unwin’s office in London and met the lovely Rachel Mann. I didn’t actually fall down at any point, but it was an unbelievable day. Everyone was so nice and they gave me some book proofs and we chatted about publishers and had a hug. Wow.

The road since then has not been exactly smooth. COVID has affected so many areas of the world in such profound and horrible ways that it almost seems silly to mention the book that we had to hit pause on because it didn’t feel right to work on at that moment (it was set after a virus had wiped out most of humanity. Gah). We’ve had to switch gears and work on other projects, all with the background of the world falling apart.

A year on, it still feels unbelievable that I’m an agented writer. I think this is in part because it’s such a wonderful thing to have happened. I now have a cheerleader with an intimate knowledge of the market and the know-how to get my stories up to a high enough standard for publishers. I feel so grateful that Rachel took a chance on me, and I hope that feeling never goes away.

But there is another reason that this all feels a bit unreal. I not only have dreams but I imagine the life I’ll have when that dream becomes a reality. So, I not only dreamt of having an agent and the support and guidance that would come with that, but I also dreamt about the other things that would be different. I envisioned how I would be different.

Once I had an agent, I wouldn’t struggle to find the time or energy for writing anymore. Each moment would be an inspiration filled word-fest. I saw myself, sitting in a comfy chair, a blanket over my legs, creating characters everyone would fall in love with. I imagined myself talking at festivals, running courses about writing craft and encouraging others to put pen to paper. I saw myself confidently talking at literary parties and signings, always having the right words for everyone.

None of this has come true.

I struggle to find the time and energy to write every day. I sit at my laptop and feel like I’m writing utter crap. My blankets often smell like dog. I don’t feel like anyone will love my characters but me. I have done some mentoring and run some courses, but I feel like I’m talking thinly veiled nonsense. I have attended agency parties on Zoom and felt a mere shadow of the crippling social anxiety I would at a real-life event.

My dream has come true, I have an agent, but I have not changed.

And I guess that’s the warning/thing I’m trying to pass on here. Yes, getting an agent has been wonderful and will continue to be great, but it hasn’t changed who I am.

I didn’t know how much of my dream was packaged up in hoping that I would magically become some other person. I told myself that if I had an agent right now my life would be better, I would be better. If I achieved this dream, I would shed my issues and insecurities and step into the life I dreamed of.

Some of those things might come. I want to get better at talking to people, especially about the imaginary people in my head that will magically also become imaginary people in their heads through my stories. I want to spend more time writing and become more confident in my craft so that even on the bad days I know putting words down is better than not. I want blankets that are clean and one day I would love a room of my own.

But, like the dream of getting an agent, those are things I have to work towards. Unfortunately, a sparkling ability to shine in any conversation will not materialise without practice. I won’t have more faith in my writing unless I do it more. I won’t have clean blankets unless I kick the dog off the sofa and put the blankets in the washing machine. (Don’t worry, that last one isn’t going to happen.)

I guess what I’m saying is – strive for your dreams, but don’t expect to magically become a different person when they come true. Interrogate your imaginings of your future and make sure it’s you you’re dreaming about, not some shining version of yourself you’ve decided is somehow better.

You will carry on being you no matter what dreams come true, and that is the very best person for you to be.

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