An Agent’s Creative Side

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Aug 17 2010

Do you ever have those days when too many distractions make writing nearly impossible? Maybe it’s a day better spent researching or working on marketing and publicity or maybe it’s a day you just need to take a break from writing to get those other things done that are clogging your brain?

I don’t know if that’s the way it works for you, but that’s definitely the way it works for me. There are days when, no matter how many proposals are piled on my desk, I just can’t get to them. Editing, reviewing, reading, or writing revision letters for clients is a creative process. When I read those books or proposals I need to be at the top of my game. I need to be able to really think while I’m reading, analyze what’s working and what’s not working, and make copious notes to the author. If I have too many other things going on, things that can make it difficult for me to focus, it’s not going to be good for my client. It means that I’m distracted and that I might miss the fact that the heroine is a complete imbecile or the hero is just plain awful. If I’m distracted it means I can’t do my best work for a client and this is why it sometimes takes agents longer than it should.

If I’m distracted I think it’s better not to read for revisions the minute the work arrives on my desk, but to instead give myself time to get rid of the distractions and give myself a clean plate. Once my brain is clear, I settle in, turn off the phone and computer, and sit down to focus on what needs to get done. Granted, this usually doesn’t take weeks, but can sometimes mean that it takes a few days longer than I want it to. I try to keep my clients honestly informed of where I’m at with things and hopefully I never keep them waiting too long, but an agent’s job has a bit of a creative side too and just like writers, it’s important for us to embrace our own creative process so that we can do the best work possible on your behalf.


18 responses to “An Agent’s Creative Side”

  1. Avatar Sommer Leigh says:

    There are points in my writing where I know nothing that is coming out is even kind of good because there's too much burn out or distraction in my head. Those are usually the days when I walk away from my WIP and read a book. Other people's creations are usually enough to unclog everything.

  2. Avatar Hillsy says:

    Hehe – Spare a thought for us who write and have ADHD. "One of those days" can be 360 days a year.

    Of course you do get those days when you get a clear run at it. Then you realise its 21 hours later and you haven't eaten, washed, slept….or done the housework AGAIN!!

    Word Verification – verisic: A description of Man Flu

  3. Avatar GFH says:

    Since you brought up distractions, have you read any of the latest neurology headlines about the age we're living in?

    Some really interesting stuff.

    Here's a link as an example of what's going on:

  4. As an English teacher and a writer, I hear you. I try to be prompt with my feedback to students, but when I'm having a migraine (which happens about once every two months), I tell them that I think they'd prefer waiting an extra few days for their papers rather than having me give them feedback in the middle of a screwdriver plowing itself into my eyeballs.

  5. Avatar magolla says:

    So nice to hear from the other side of the desk. If you asked for a partial from me I'd definitely want you to be on your game when you read it!

  6. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    I've found that this is true of submissions. Believe me, you do not want the person reading your submission/query when they're distracted, flustered, stressed out.

    Patience is difficult, but it's worth it in the end.

  7. Avatar wry wryter says:

    Just proves one thing.
    Though most writers deny this fact, agents are human too…at least some of them are.

    Watch a reality show, while folding laundry, that will send you running back to your pile of author's dreams with a clear mind every time.

  8. Avatar Becky Levine says:

    I think this has something to do with working for oneself, or at least always having writing, "other" stuff that is there waiting to be done. The weekends kind of disappear, in terms of a regular, recharge pattern, and at some point, our brains shout, "Break!" It makes me think of when my son was very young, and he really didn't yet have a 24-hour pattern. He'd go and go, with less sleep and less tiredness, and then on day 3 or 4, that tiredness (and the crankiness) would kick in and he'd be out for a really long stretch.

    The days off are necessary. 🙂

  9. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    All my writing takes place in a dark office with shades drawn, just me in my recliner w/my laptop. Most days it engulfs me like a cocoon and I don't want to leave–on the days it feels like a trap, I get in the car and go somewhere or take a hike in the woods. It's that change of scene that my creative side needs, even if the change is just standing in line at the grocery store. After a break, I can't wait to get back to my "writing cave!"

  10. Avatar Robena Grant says:

    It makes sense to me that reading a submission would require using the creative aspect of the brain, just as revising and editing requires analytical powers.
    I once saw black baseball caps all imprinted with white, one for writer, one for editor, and one for muse. I wonder if it would work to change hats before approaching the work? You know, get yourself into the right frame of mind, kid yourself…

  11. Avatar Sheila Cull says:

    OMG! You mean that's not unique to me? Laugh out loud.

    I had never considered an agent's creative side. I don't understand how you Jessica and say, Nathan Bransford do it. In 24 hours, minus sleep, you need to review scripts, edit, make contacts, sell scripts, reject scripts, consider scripts, maintain business relationships and on top of that write informative, great posts most days and be creative to boot. There's probably more to add.

    Really. Are you an under cover robot? Maybe you don't sleep. Do you sleep?

  12. Creativity is either a "mud-slide" or a "dried up well"! And either one can, and will, happen to all of us. One thing I have definitely learned is to not try and be creative when I'm overtired. It just isn't worth it. The writing is fraught with spelling errors and I slip into the "telling" instead of "showing" because I'm just too lazy. That's why I sit down to write everyday, but, in the morning – and I go with the mud-slide until I fall into the dried up well.

  13. I completely agree with your topic today, Jessica. A mentor of mine once said, "The imagination doesn't like to be kicked or whipped about by a heavy boot. It prefers a gentler touch, like a playful tug."

    That's always resonated with me, because while it's important for writers to stay in the habit/discipline of writing and not procrastinating, some days the imagination needs a day to play. Read a book. Go to a museum. Do something that ultimately will help the brain restore itself.

    I never thought of this in terms of agents–this was an interesting post 🙂


  14. As much as I wish it wasn't the case, not every day is the best writing day. Some days there's just too much going on, and so I'm better off sticking with research, or even just editing what I've already written, rather than forcing out words that I'll just have to cut later. I'm learning it's all okay so long as I'm still working on the book in some capacity. Great post!

  15. Avatar Nina says:

    Sometimes I just want to get started on those ritalin tablets for my add, but I'm sure I can do without. So I totally get you, I'm fighting those distractions every day, and with my borther's wedding coming up on Saturday, I've just had to put everything on hold for two weeks to help him out!

    Can't wait to get back to work – without wedding – distractions.

  16. Avatar wry wryter says:

    Some of my best writing comes late at night just before my eyelids get so heavy I can barely see the screen.
    Some of my best writing comes in the morning just as I finish my second cup of coffee and dash off to work.
    Some of my best writing is on weekdays, weekends and…I wish there was more.
    My most CREATIVE writing comes when I am in the car, no keyboard, and the only sound I hear is my own voice.
    I have great dialog with myself.
    I think they have medication for that.

  17. Avatar CFD Trade says:

    Waiting for replies to queries is a distraction…a nail-biting distraction.:D

  18. Yes! Completely. I have ADD, too. I have a coffee ritual that I've managed to perfect that's just the right amount of caffeine for me to focus without making me bounce off the walls like a rabid cat on crack.