I Still Don’t Have an Agent and That’s OK

On why getting an agent will not be one of my 2023 goals

In many ways, 2022 has been the best year of my life. I got married, welcomed my entire family to London to celebrate our wedding, and finally received my PhD. Coincidentally, my PhD and marriage took place within a few months of each other. While my husband went to pains to make sure my degree was featured on its own, inevitably people tended to congratulate me on getting married. This always feels a bit strange because marriage has never been a personal goal. In fact, my love life has never played a role in my annual goal-setting. But when I think about the long road to meeting someone I actually wanted to marry, I realize congratulations are certainly in order. Even if I wasn’t actively trying to find a husband, I did date, and my best friend is convinced I could write a best-selling book on my trials and tribulations.

Maybe she’s right. But for now I’m focused on writing other things, and that brings me to the point of this post. One of my goals has been repeated every year since 2017: Get an agent.

Why haven’t I got an agent yet? It’s certainly not for lack of trying. I’ve pitched roughly 100 agents and several independent publishers. I’ve written (and rewritten, and rewritten) two novels; completed my PhD in Creative Writing; published two short stories, an essay, and several book reviews; placed in a couple of contests; taught creative writing; and work as a fiction reader for a literary magazine. I have received trusted feedback that my writing is good. And yet…

Maybe my writing just isn’t good enough. That is the most obvious answer. Part of being a writer is harboring a great deal of self-doubt, and I am OK with that. On good days I feel optimistic and proud, and on bad days…well on bad days I’ve gotten very good at muddling through, knowing that tomorrow will be better. I remind myself that I kissed a lot (A LOT) of frogs before I met my husband, so perhaps finding an agent is also a game of numbers and perseverance.

But this year I’ve decided that the goal of finding an agent might be counterproductive. It forces me to value my success as a writer according to a single measure, when in reality I’m doing so much more than I ever expected. Ten years ago, I was working as a communications director in D.C., looking forward to one trip to Europe each year. Occasionally I’d toy with the idea of getting an advanced degree, or of giving my childhood dream of writing a real shot. Then I’d come back to reality, go to work, and find some joy in planning another vacation. If I had told my thirty-year-old self that in the next ten years I’d be living in London, married to the kindest person I’d ever met, with a PhD and a handful of writing credentials…well, I’d be very excited about that.

So in 2023, “get an agent” is not going to be on my list of goals. Instead, I am counting my lucky stars that I have space to write, quality work to share, and lots of ideas in my head.

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