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Planting Next Year's Crops

Sometimes it seems as if being a writer is as much about time management as it is about words. Weeks and months can drag by without hearing from an editor or agent to see how last year's crop fared or whether the latest has earned any interest in the market of ideas. And time never moves more slowly than when one is between deadlines.

These long waits are the best times to select the seeds for future projects, whet your plow's blade with fresh research, and to sow the seeds for future work by querying editors for "filler assignments" (I love doing quick "how-to" articles on writing, for example), putting together proposals for presentations, and brainstorming various options/markets/projects while networking with trusted writer buddies. Lately, while waiting to hear about a pending book proposal, I've taken to getting a second underway. Not only is it good insurance, in case the first one doesn't fly for whatever reason, it may raise the possibility of a multi-book deal or get me ahead of the curve the next time I need to hand in a proposal.

You can never really know when, whether, or which (warning: metaphor pushed to critical limit ahead) seeds will bear fruit. Recently, I was asked by a magazine to do an article. I'd e-mailed the query nearly a year before (and promptly forgot about it). I also received an message asking me about a presentation I'd proposed two years earlier. But it's nice to be pleasantly surprised, and sometimes it's a great way to pick up an extra paycheck.

Just as importantly, tossing out these seeds between deadlines keeps me from feeling that I'm completely at the mercy of others. Waiting around passively can turn me into the tragically overwrought Orphan in the Storm. Acting empowers me. And besides that, the more good ideas (and I hope a lot of them are good, but I'm not any more immune from Idiot Thought Masquerading as Brilliance than anybody) I toss out there, the more I seem to grow.

Besides that, I noticed that all the Big-Girl Authors were doing it, and I want to be as cool & successful as they are. :)

So it's time to chime in. What do you do to stay sane and solvent while waiting to hear about a submission?

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