Warning: This is a no-edit zone…
Last night, I had the pleasure of “speaking” at an online chat with a group of talented writers from Indiana. It was a very positive experience.
It seems I learn something new at each of these I do, and over the years, I guess I’ve done hundreds, if not over a thousand. I wondered going in what that gem would be last night. You come to expect things when they happen consistently. And when we were nearly done, there it was: a beauty of a gem.
An author asked about what to look for in a professional relationship. She was speaking of an agent, specifically, but the same holds true for editorial relationships or even relationships with other writers.
As those of you who’ve been on my article email loop for years know, I’ve done many articles on these topics, and a lengthy one on this specifically. But when asked these questions, I don’t refer to past articles, I rely on what memories spring to mind–good and bad. Not only mine, but also the experiences of other writers. When you’ve been around awhile, you hear alot, and you don’t have to experience things firsthand to learn from them.
What came to mind last night was the business ramifications, the coverage and protection of assets. What happens if the agent dies? Is your money tied up in the estate, or is it separate and handled by a trustee immediately? When a book goes out of print and rights are reverted to the author, does the agency’s interest in that book end, or do they continue so long as the work exists? Those type questions.
But beyond the questions that focused on “business,” what rose highest in my mind is the partnership between the interested parties. Whether it’s an author/agent or an author/editor, there is joint purpose. There is trust. There is respect for each other’s investment in the work and in the process.
That is the gem. Because without those things, none of the others matter. And without those things, regardless of effort or desire or intent, things just don’t work.
It is said that once broken trust cannot be repaired. While some belive it, I know through life experience that it is not fact. Trust can be repaired, but it takes time and effort and faith in both parties and belief that it’s being reciprocated in both parties. That sounds easy, but it’s not. It can be worthwhile, or an exercise in futility. And only the individuals can determine whether or not they wish to make that investment.
One person in a partnership can’t make it work, and that truth must be considered and given its due. Many writers will linger far longer, hanging onto hope that things will work out when every indicator tells them otherwise. Part of that is a natural reaction to stepping outside their known comfort zone and into the unknown. Part of it is hating the disruption that any change brings. Part of it is fear that what happens next will result in a worse position than the current one.
All are valid and have their benefits as well as their shortfalls. But the time-tested truth and bottom-line indicator of what to do is this: Make the call. Either way, decide what you want to do. Do not wrestle and wallow in indecision, for that is a decision.
Once you’ve decided, then look into your own eyes in a mirror. If what you see is fear of the unknown, accept it. And remember that everything was unknown to you at one time, and the process of making those things known has not been fatal.
If what you see is relief, well, that’s easy. You know you’ve made the right decision for you. (Maybe not the right one for others, but for you, and that is your mission.)
If what you see is regret, know that this, too, is normal. We all grow wistful when something that started with such promise sours and grows bitter. The gleam and shine grow dull and tarnish. If there is no regret, there has been no investment. A lack of investment is worthy of regret.
If you see anger, try to look at the bigger picture. No matter how huge this seems, in reality it’s a blip on the screen of your life. Keep perspective because to lose it is to lose your identity. And that’s a significant thing to willingly give away. Rather than focusing on the anger, the negative, turn your mind to the positive, solutions, new opportunities. Far more constructive, and far healthier, too.
No matter where you are in your writing career, you’re going to face turning points. Early on, they can be quite traumatic. But as you gain experience, the ability to create trauma diminishes, until you finally reach a point where you skip that aspect and go straight to, “Okay, whatever the purpose for me being here, I’ve done it. Now what was it?” And rather than trauma, you focus on what did I gain from this experience? And then you move on.
Learning to make that transition and to recognize these turning points is a valuable lesson in life as well as in writing. It diminishes anxiety and, if you approach them positively, then your reaction to them is far more apt to be positive. Rather than dwelling on something that’s served its purpose, you look ahead with excitement, wondering: “What’s next?”
The interesting thing about chats are definitely the people you meet, those you know and have the chance to visit with, and the wonderful opportunity you know going it will be there, if only you listen closely for its whisper.
I don’t know if the people who attend my chats leave feeling they’ve learned something new. I hope they do. I do know I always leave feeling I’ve learned something new.
Isn’t it funny? I’ve always done chats to share, hoping that other writers can avoid the school of hard knocks I’ve attended (many times). I didn’t start doing them because I expected anything in return. I never did. And yet in giving, I’ve received most. What an amazing gift.