You can’t steer a parked car

I keep thinking about the days when my Daddy was teaching me to drive. Those were not exactly the most joyful days in our relationship–I was terrified, and a terrified person is not easy to teach.

One thing in particular keeps sticking in my head: he would get absolutely furious when I’d start turning the steering wheel while my foot was still on the brake. I’d back out of the driveway or out of a parking space, put the car into drive, and start turning without rolling. That did not make him happy. “You can’t go anywhere until you let off the brake, Mandy.” (That’s most effectively read with a southern accent, so you might want to go back and read that over again.)

So maybe you’re thinking these are odd things to ponder when I’ve known how to drive for over 20 years now. But not really. Because I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do for months now: wrench the steering wheel while I’m stomping on the brake. It’s frustrating and it doesn’t get me anywhere. I keep behaving as if I’m ready to go where God leads (wrenching the steering wheel), but I also behave as if I need to know where we’re headed before I’ll let go (stomping on the brake). Well, it’s stupid, and it’s proof that I don’t really trust Him–in word, yes, but not in practice.

Do I have to know how the car works–the ignition, the fuel injection, etc.–before I drive down to King Soopers for milk and eggs? Heaven help us, we’d all starve. In the same way, I don’t have to know how He works, or what He’s planning, before I start living and moving forward.

I have been working for more than three years on my novel, and now that it’s done, I’m paralyzed. I have spent hours and hours the past few days looking up agents and researching the authors and books they represent to try and find the perfect match for me and my book. I have eliminated some because they don’t represent Christians (won’t they have a hard time understanding me?). I’ve eliminated others because they do (won’t they pigeonhole my book and submit it only to Christian publishers, who I don’t think would take it because it doesn’t really qualify as Christian fiction?). I have eliminated some because they work in Montana or Arizona, not New York (they won’t have an “in” with the big houses in NYC if they’re out in Podunk). I’ve eliminated others because they are in New York (won’t they be big and scary?). I have eliminated some because they’ve been around too long (they won’t take me, I’m just a magazine writer). I’ve eliminated others because they’re new (they’ll only take me because they have to, and they won’t have any clout with publishers).

See what I mean? I’ve pulled over to the side of the road, waiting for someone to come and explain the inner workings of the engine, when what I really need to do is just step on the gas.

3 thoughts on “You can’t steer a parked car

  1. After all of the eliminations, is there anyone left? Maybe it would be useful to consider Jamie’s strategy. After all, aren’t you eliminating publishers based on your conjecture, judgment and even, in some cases, predjudice? What if you took a risk and let the publishers surprise you with what they can and are willing TO do?

  2. JnM –

    Exactly! What I realized was that I was eliminating absolutely everyone, for reasons that aren’t even real reasons, they’re just excuses because I’m petrified of all the rejection letters I expect to receive! Wouldn’t it be easier if I just go through the rest of my life saying, “I wrote a book but I never could find the right agent to submit to” rather than having to say, “I wrote a book but nobody wanted it”? (I’m saying that tongue-in-cheek, by the way. Sort of.)

    I have finally decided on four agents. I promise, I’ll send my stuff out to them this week. Foot off the brake and on the gas, so to speak. =)

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