Much is made, in the writing world, of The Call.
This is supposed to be the definitive moment, when the agent or editor calls you and says they want to represent you or publish your book. This is the moment of triumph, the realization of all the hard work.
Only it’s not.
Maybe this is just a life thing. People seem to ask for the bests. The best day. The most precious memory. The most amazing year of your life. I’m often struck by the lack of, well, imagination in people’s answers. My wedding day, they’ll say. Or the day my child was born. I find myself wondering if, like favorite books, this answer isn’t dressed up for public consumption. My answer to best day of my life is much like my answer to my favorite book: it depends. Different moments stand out for different reasons. The feel of warm ocean water, a particular kiss, the way the light falls on the leaves.
And, maybe this is just me, but I’m not sure I believe in the triumphal single moment.
Maybe because our life-movies never end there, with the battle won, the cheering crowds, the trophy clenched in hand while tears run down the cheeks. While those scenes fade to black, perhaps followed with a bit of text explaining what that person went on to do, or how many happy years they went on to live, our own lives continue on, much the same as before.
An agent called me this morning. On another blog, that might be the title. Followed by various forms of “Squee!” It was a rushed call: she didn’t necessarily offer me representation, I didn’t get to ask my questions. She wants to send me notes on my novel. I’m not sure of her plan, but I’m willing to look at what she sends.
Maybe because she’s not THE agent. My prom date analogy thus continues. You don’t want to turn down a date to prom, but you don’t want to go with a guy you don’t like, either. Especially when he hasn’t really asked yet, when he’s hinted he might have to see my dress first. So this doesn’t feel triumphal at all. However, I learned the lesson early on that pining for that one boy to notice you leads to a lot of lonely nights at home.
Agents always give the advice that you should carefully research first. That a bad agent is worse than no agent. Pick the one you like, they say, one you’re sure you’ll love to work with. They never seem to comprehend that, once you pick your perfect agent, if they decline, your life still continues. That most of us are working our way down the list. This is a no-brainer. This is how life works. No one applies only to Harvard.
A writer-friend of mine commented on Facebook that she found out her book made the NYT Bestseller List, and then her cat puked and she had to clean it up. I’ve gotten calls before — great ones about publishing my book or offering me jobs or promotions, saying I’ve won fellowships. There are greater and lesser glows to them all. None of them were the best moments of my life so far. And cleaning up hairballs aren’t the worst either.
Sometimes it gets wearing, that one day seems much like the next. Another Memorial Weekend; another week of work. Our lives move in a relentless stream, neither uphill nor down. Maybe the point isn’t to seek those highs, the moments of brilliant perfection. Maybe we should be looking for the pleasure in the daily flow, the joy in both a phone call and in caring for the cats.