Many years ago (1990-1994) I worked for Panasonic. Toward the middle of that run, three area warehouses converged into one super-sized Distribution Center. For the vast majority of my time with the company, there was a 50-50 mix of permanent employees (such as myself) and temps (we didn’t call them contractors, as is fashionable now). The most influential of the bunch was a highly educated guy named Glenn.
This should come as no surprise, but warehouse work is a blue-collar undertaking, and as such, that crowd doesn’t always gel with more ambitious types. Glenn had recently completed his schooling and was gunning for a high paying position somewhere else, and certainly not driving a forklift. But, to his great credit, he did the job and didn’t complain about it, except as warranted, such as when he nearly got crushed by a forklift with faulty brakes.
What set Glenn apart was that every day, all through lunch, he got out his phone card (so as not to be accused of costing the company money) and his leatherette notebook, and he made calls. Every day, without fail. I found time to shoot the bull with him during the work day, but lunch time was his time.
One day, he said goodbye. He got that high-paying job he was gunning for, in Florida.
I think back fondly to that episode because I caught myself doing the same thing yesterday. During my breaks and lunch, I was researching everything I could about the book publishing process. I’ve been making a list of potential agents to query when it’s time to start. I’ll have to check the list again when I do, because agents have limited bandwidth and just because they’re hot to trot this month doesn’t mean they will be in September, for example. But it’s been enlightening and inspiring to see real live literary agents give the parameters for what they want, and in what format.
Back in the early 1990s, I got all hopped up on Les Brown’s motivational speeches. I’m even in one of his videos, sitting in the front row at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Of his many aphorisms, the one that resonates now more than ever is, “ask yourself: what can I do today to get closer to my goal?” I’m finding that out in spades as I plug away on my first novel.