People ask me how I do it all — agent, author, wife and mother. The answer is that some days I go a little crazy. It helps that for me it’s a short trip, so I can make it back fairly quickly. Actually, I’m not so much driven insane by doing everything as nothing. I have a serious nose-to-the-grindstone Type A personality. Nothing drives me as nuts as downtime.
In junior high and high school I filled up my lunch and study hall periods with extra classes, particularly English and art. I did theatre (both school and community) after classes and worked on our high school literary magazine. I couldn’t fit chorus into my schedule, but my hs luckily had a “homeroom chorus” for other over-achievers like me, so I found a way to make even homeroom productive. In case you haven’t guessed, I kind of thrive on being constantly challenged and crazy busy. As an adult, nothing has changed. Instead of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to do my homework, I rise at that ungodly hour so that I can beat my inner editor to consciousness. Otherwise, the perfectionist in me might never allow me to commit words to page.
If there’s time, I go back to sleep afterward for an hour or so before I wake up, grab copious amounts of caffeine, and start my working day, which goes from approximately 9:30 to 5:30, except when I start work at 8 a.m., or work on the weekends, or . Okay, but let’s assume 9:30 to 5:30. During that time, I focus on my authors. (I have an agent of my own to handle my career so that I can keep it at an emotional and working distance.) There’s no such thing as a “normal” schedule for an agent, but on any given day I might be: making calls to editors alerting them to the awesome new novel coming their way, working on pitch letters and submissions, getting promotional material and finished books out to our subagents for submission to studios and foreign publishers, looking over royalty statements, asking questions about said statements, following up on payments/submissions/contracts/author’s copies, running an auction, negotiating terms, haggling out contract language, answering e-mails, running to the post office, putting together quote sheets, getting editorial notes to my authors, reading the trade magazines, requesting rights reversion . The only way to do all that is to have a schedule constantly running in your head (or, in my case, on my desktop). An agent has to be highly organized, dare I say even a little anal retentive, in order to keep track of all the irons he/she has in the fire.
After work, there’s time out for dinner and family before it’s back to the grind about the time my son goes to bed, reading and evaluating manuscripts, proposals, queries, etc.
My weekends look much the same, except that for some reason, none of the editors will take my calls, and I might choose not to wade through legalese (contracts). However, unless I’m ahead on my reading, which never happens, I don’t get to take a day off. Not really. So, it’s a good thing I really love my job and my authors.
The folks who ask about timing, sometimes follow up with a question about whether I want to be a full-time writer. Well, actually no. I don’t think I’d be any more productive with more time on my hands. In fact, I suspect I wouldn’t have that time for long before I filled it up with a million other things, none as fulfilling as the job I already do. Working with creative, talented, brilliant people, helping them achieve their dreams, being part of a very exclusive and impressive posse (for lack of a word to combine both fraternity and sorority) it’s addictive. Last I heard, they hadn’t developed a twelve-step program for those of us helplessly in love with the written word. I suspect that unless they put it in writing and let someone entertaining like Mary Roach write it, none of us would take any notice, not with so many other wonderful books still to be read.