I sometimes compare working in a records office to working at a morgue. There is very little interaction with live people, and not much room for creativity. Hence my need to continue to write.
Today I was reading a chapter from Betsy Lerner's "The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers." Simply put, writers are neurotic. "Some pick their skin, some pull out their hair..." (p. 93). Sound familiar? I asked myself. Disturbingly.
So what keeps us from moving forward as writers? We want to be published, yet there is an underlining fear stopping us. I remember approaching a wizened pianist after one of his brilliant recitals. In response to my question if he ever got nervous, he said: "Never in the history of the world has the earth ever opened up and swallowed a pianist."
What's stopping me from finding an agent and getting published? Nothing!
The further I read into Lerner's book, the more I was convinced. Yes, I need an agent. No, I shouldn't self-publish an e-book just to avoid rejection and the vetting process of the scary, traditional publishing world.
Lerner recommends coming up with long and short term goals. Long term, I plan to have my books published, and I'll need an agent to land a decent publisher. I can also publish as many of the papers I write for my master's degree as possible, preferably in peer-reviewed journals.
And very, very, short term, I can post reflections on my progress to my blog. It doesn't have to be perfect. It's a blog, not Hemingway. :)
From there, I'll polish my query letter, proposal, and synopsis and (yikes) send it all off to agents. Lerner says the process is much like applying to college. Send "one submission that is a reach, two that are in range, and one 'safety school'. Try an agent at one of the big power firms, a couple at medium-sized firms, and one who is out on her own. And if you're also trying publishing houses, try a big conglomerate, a couple of smaller houses, and regional or academic press if that makes sense" (p. 148-149).
Sounds like applying to law school to me...but much more fun!