Last week after I tweeted about my post on “An Agent’s Day” and another post by agent Steve Laube about “The Waiting Game,” a Twitter follower wrote back, “So you’re saying agents are procrastinators?”
I can only assume they were being funny, and yes, I have a sense of humor so I smiled. But it occurred to me that writers could very well assume that the reason there are long waits when dealing with agents is because we procrastinate.
What does it mean to procrastinate?
Procrastinate: transitive verb: to put off intentionally and usually habitually and for a reason held to be reprehensible (as laziness, indifference to responsibility).
Based on that definition, it’s not what we do. (Any agent who is lazy or indifferent won’t be an agent for long.) Rather, agents are constantly engaged in triage.
Triage: noun: the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success.
As is the case with many, many jobs these days, there is always more to be done than we can realistically accomplish in a day. Everyone has to learn triage — I daresay it’s one of the secrets to success in any career. Learning to prioritize is a necessary skill.
But when you’re the person on the other end of the triage — that is, you’re among those being sorted and prioritized — it’s not fun if you’re not the top of the list. When you visit the emergency room for a broken arm, triage usually determines that your emergency will be prioritized lower than people bleeding out, suffering possible stroke or heart attack, or having a baby in the next few minutes. That’s not fun and you won’t like it, but it’s a reality.
I think anyone responsible for any kind of triage in their jobs finds it difficult and unpleasant to have to tell people, “You’ll need to wait your turn.” I certainly don’t like it. I’d love to be able to take care of everyone’s needs the moment they ask me. Alas, it just doesn’t work that way.
I do appreciate when writers understand the necessity for agents (and others) to triage. I also think it’s okay to nudge the person from whom you need a response, much like you might politely inquire with the triage nurse if she has any idea when it will be your turn because your arm really hurts.
But agents procrastinating? Not so much.
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