Do your work, then step back.

After seven years working summers and spring breaks, I’ve completed my first novel, Light from the Mainland. I’m grateful to be done, pleased with my effort, and confident that the novel will find a home somewhere and at some point.

The next step in the process is to find an agent. This is no easy task. In order to reach most publishers, you must have an agent and in order to have an agent, you must compete with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of authors, clamoring for attention. I’ve published nonfiction books, but fiction is new terrain for me and an even harder sell. So, here I am, writing agents in what amounts to cold calls, jumping up and down, shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!”

Here’s how the process works: You send your query letter out, sometimes with a synopsis of the novel, plus whatever number of first pages each agent asks for: 5, 10, 25. If they’re interested, they write back in four to six weeks, asking to see more. If they’re not interested…silence. You don’t hear back.

And, thus, the waiting begins. Waiting, doing nothing. The hardest part.

I find comfort in the Tao te Ching, in two excerpts from Stephen Mitchell’s translation:

Do you work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

Express yourself completely,
Then keep quiet.

So there you have it. I’ve done my work, expressed myself completely. Now it’s time to step back and keep quiet. The rest is not my business.

But still, the waiting…


About Malcolm W Campbell

Father. Husband. Writer. Teacher. Outdoorsperson. And something else... Forgetful?
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4 Responses to Do your work, then step back.

  1. Lené Gary says:

    Congratulations, Malcolm. 🙂

  2. Lauren says:

    I’m so proud of you.

  3. Jewel B Davis says:

    Love this Malcolm. I’m with you as we both wait.

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