The shopping bags are too heavy. I’ve overestimated, again, how much I can carry. I didn’t think my list for this week was even that long, but either I bought extra things or I just didn’t think about how heavy everything I was buying was.
The first bit of the walk home – the downhill part – isn’t too bad. It’s when the road curves upwards at the end of the dip that it gets painful. I can practically feel my ankles giving way underneath me.
And then my phone vibrates in my pocket.
It’s awkward to get it out with the shopping bags on my shoulders, but I do anyway – maybe the distraction will give me half a minute of distraction as I crest the hill. It’s probably just a trash email.
Except – it isn’t. It’s from the literary agent I applied to. And they want to see the full manuscript of my novel. And suddenly I’m hiking up the hill with too-heavy shopping bags sobbing at my phone screen, trying desperately to swype the words of success into the Messenger app.
Then I wake up. The cat is giving her ‘I’ve caught something and you have to see it’, meow. It’s loud.
And all of that success was a dream.
Here’s the thing I forgot to tell you about agent applications.
When you are in this process, it consumes you. Even if you’re not constantly actively thinking about it (have they read the email yet? Was my covering letter okay? Did I get the formatting right on the synopsis?), it’s in the back of your mind.
I’ve had dreams like this every night this week. Sometimes they’re voluntary and I’m controlling them, imagining the many awkward places where I could get The News. The different ways it could come. The different reactions.
The problem with this is that waiting is stressful. And most agents will take 2-3 months at the minimum to reply to a submission. That’s months of constantly wondering how I’ve done.
That stress, unacknowledged, can build up on you like an unexpected tidal wave.
And when it comes crashing down, it can bring destruction on the scale that only overwhelming stress can.
You have a cold! Your mental health sucks! Every time anyone even slightly annoys you, you snap at them! The house is a mess! It’s three weeks since you said anything funny on Twitter!
Okay, some of these are worse than others, but the problem is that you never experience such things in isolation. You get all of them as a package. That’s the way anxiety works. It’s never the ‘big things’ that break you, it’s something like not being funny on Twitter which swoops in as the final score to convince you that you have failed at everything, ever.
So if you’re doing something like this, give yourself a break.
I don’t just mean a literal break, though you should also take those too. I should definitely take those, I’m very bad at it. The downside of having never worked a traditional job is that I have a very skewed perspective of how much work people do in a day.
What I really mean is that you should anticipate the amount of stress and emotional labour a process like this brings, and be ready to cut yourself some slack for it. Trust the people around you to support you. Don’t feel bad if some days it’s a bit much and you just need to hide on the sofa chain watching Jane the Virgin.
Because if you get through this, it could be the the next step on the journey of a lifetime.
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