In Defense of Not Writing #23: Querying

This column explores the myriad ways we can — and maybe should — engage with our creative process beyond actively writing.

It feels as if over night spring has come. I know it hasn’t. The slow growing intensity of my allergies as buds of grass and flowers begin to peak out from beneath the snow has proven that to me. But still, it’s as if a switch was flipped.

Each year I’m shocked by the fact that Western New York can be in a second winter only days before the snow leaves us for good. It doesn’t seem right to me, at least. I think there should be more of a back and forth, a gentle climb to the warmth. Instead it seems to come out of nowhere, winter coats and gloves and hats being shoved into its rightful spots in the back of closets.

Now my partner and I go walking a lot. There are crocuses stretching their limbs and white little snowdrops inappropriately named because they only come once the snow is gone. Even daffodils are threatening to burst. It’s wonderful and beautiful and feels as if the entire city is new.

But it’s not. It’s something the earth has been working on for months in secret. Deep beneath the soil, there was fungus and insects and roots keeping warm and waiting to break out. It’s easy to think all this has exploded during one late night, but it’s been thoughtful, purposeful work happening behind closed doors. Until one day, everyone felt like they were ready to see the world.

All to say, I’ve begun querying. Does it seem like one day I randomly decided to get started? Yes. Is that the truth? No. In truth, I’ve spent far too many weeks thinking about a better time to do it. A more optimal time. A time after my memoir is perfect. A time when there’s nothing else I could do to it. But, deep down, I’ve been learning there never is a perfect time.

My memoir might always feel unfinished. And I’ll probably always imagine a better way to say something. But that isn’t necessarily fruitful. In fact, chasing your memoir’s tail in circles can make a person pull their hair out.

I’m not sure if an agent will come from this querying process, nor do I think that’s what I’m ultimately using it for. Right now, it just seemed like I needed to stop sitting on my hands, dreaming of a picture-perfect project, and just see what could happen. It’s more a reminder to myself that all this is supposed to be in motion.

Much like that point in February when more snow falls on the ground, I caught myself wondering: Will this ever end? Or, rather, fearing that I will have written an entire memoir and not actually do anything with it or about it because I’m too afraid it will never be perfect (UGH! There’s that word again). At some point, you just have to go for it.

So, I haven’t been writing so much. What I have been doing is reading, editing, dreaming up book tour outfits, and trying not to break my laptop while using Query Tracker. At the moment, I have close to twenty calls out, and one agent already requested my full manuscript. Which is terrifying. I spent hours transferring the Google Doc into Microsoft Word, making sure each white space before a chapter was the same, realizing Google Docs doesn’t pick up when you incorrectly spell the word calender. My eyes bled from the blue screen and I asked myself, again, Is this all shit?

I don’t think so. And I hope other folks, specifically agents and publishers, don’t think so either. Does it need some help? Absolutely. But I’ve been told by various agents to wait until I’m signed on to find an editor. So this is the right next step. This is work that has been privately, secretly, outrageously getting done step-by-step in such a slow way that I didn’t realize it was finished until I typed the letters THE END at, well, the end. Much like how we don’t realize spring has been making itself known until one day, you can no longer deny its presence.

I’m hopeful for the best, and have already received two rejections. When I got the first one, I immediately texted my two writerly friends who have been querying for months already to make space for me in the club. The only thing that makes this process easier is having community, people to walk through each step with you. They were there for the rejection, and they were there to answer my formatting questions for my first request. Everything’s a bit easier with friends; everything’s a bit easier when the sun is out.

And after sending this column off, calling my father for retirement fun advice, taking a walk before the sun sets, I’m going to get back on the horse. Probably send off three more. Then just wait and see.

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