I had another novel agent rejection. He said, “You have an interesting story to tell and there’s a lot to like about your approach. But in the end I’m afraid I didn’t come away quite fully convinced this was something I think I’d be able to represent successfully.” I’m confused by this. Is it the literary equivalent of “I like you, but only as a friend”? (I got that a lot too in the years before E.) It makes me wonder if agents are really put off by the Jewish nature of my novel and think they can’t represent it. If so, maybe I ought to seek out Jewish agents (how would I find them?), or apply to the one or two Jewish or Jewish-ish publishers I know.

***

I woke up this morning to a text telling me I could apply for a vaccine passport. As the text did not come from an NHS number (they always say “NHS”) and didn’t link to an NHS website, and as I already have the NHS COVID app, I concluded that this was a scam, probably asking for money for phishing for personal details. Things like this leave me a bit shaken though. Not to a huge extent, but I worry that I might fall for a scam one day, and just experiencing it makes me feel negative about the world.

***

At work J sent me to get a key cut. It was a special key, so I had to go on the bus to a particular hardware shop. He said that if it took up to an hour, I should just stay in the area and collect it, but if it took more than an hour, I should come back and he would collect it later. I was told it would take an hour, so I wandered around the area for a while. There wasn’t really time to go anywhere. There was a small park nearby, but I hadn’t brought a book to read, so I just wandered around listening to Eurythmics’ greatest hits on my headphones. So many shops have video screens in the windows now. I’m sure it contributes to autistic sensory overload.

Other than that, work left me feeling vaguely stupid again for not using my initiative or common sense, probably for no good reason, or only a mild reason. I vaguely recall that when I was a child, adults used to say I had intelligence, but not common sense. I’m not sure whether that is shorthand for autism or not.

***

Almost no one is wearing a mask on the Tube any more. I feel torn. The evidence for masks, particularly cloth ones, is not great, as I understand it. I suspect a lot of it is about wanting to feel one is doing something at a time when we couldn’t do anything. The college where I am having a job interview tomorrow still insists on masks in public spaces (I’m not sure what the define as ‘public’). Being autistic, I like clear rules, and the clash of different masking regulations (entirely voluntary/compulsory in places) is confusing to me. I fail to make up my own mind.

I am wearing a mask at the moment more to avoid panicking others than because I think it will help me, maybe because my Dad gets annoyed if people aren’t wearing masks. I wore one to shul (synagogue) over Purim, but took it off when I realised almost no one there was wearing one.

***

My ability to catastrophise about my job interview tomorrow is impeded by my inability to work out if I want the job or not. I feel like I’ll mess up the interview and still be faced with the difficult decision of taking the job or not, even though both of these things can not happen simultaneously.

I said to my parents that I feel I haven’t done well at a librarian job in the last five years. My Dad said this was untrue. I think it is largely true, although not entirely. I had a job that lasted one month in a shul library that went OK, although no one ever gave me real feedback on what I did, or even seemed to really look at it. I also, as my Dad said, did well at the job at a university library. However, as I said to him, it was not really a job for a professional librarian, although they advertised it as such, but a trainee; someone else at the institution asked if I was going to train as a librarian and was shocked that I was already qualified. Other than that, my only library work in the last five years was the further education job, which was not good at all, albeit mostly because I was in a terrible environment for an autistic person (because I didn’t know I was autistic at that stage).

I’m not sure how much of this negativity is low self-esteem and autistic rigidity and how much is real. Dad seemed to think a lot was rigidity, but I’m not convinced. I still remember how my boss at the further education job told me that I wasn’t doing as well as she expected. I don’t think I’d ever really disappointed anyone that much before.

I do feel my professional qualifications have withered over the intervening years and I’m depressed by the fact that I rarely get interviews for library jobs and when I do get them, I don’t seem to do well. I wish there was some kind of objective test I could take to see if I’m still a good librarian, like doing my MA coursework all over again (although I felt that, like job interviews, library MA coursework tested exam-passing skills as much as the skills I would use in the field). I feel that maybe I should look for a cataloguing course on CILIP, but I feel that my once-desired career as a cataloguer no longer excites me. I’m too scared that my concentration has gone and I make stupid mistakes. I don’t know if that’s due to autism-unfriendly environments or my own decline.

Someone on the autism forum was saying the other day that he has built a successful career for himself as a librarian and that he thinks that many of his colleagues are on the spectrum (diagnosed or otherwise) and that it’s an autistic-friendly career, so I feel particularly useless that I could never get this to work for me. I was dealt a bad hand in the early years of my career (and before, when I was doing my librarianship MA), having to deal with burnout, depression, social anxiety and OCD all while not actually knowing the root cause of everything, the fact that I am autistic, so maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

I guess I feel I’ve despaired of building a library career and am already focused on writing, which is even harder to get into (see above) or earn a living from. Except I don’t let myself write, because I enjoy it too much, so I prioritise everything else over it. To be honest, sticking in my current job and working hard at my writing would be the best thing for me, IF I could find a way to fight the autistic/medication-induced exhaustion and get some serious writing and submitting time in each week. But maybe even that is running away from librarianship because I feel I failed.

15 thoughts on “Questions

  1. It sounds like you’ve lost confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job which is then reflected in the interview/performance. A vicious circle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The fact that the agent took the time to come up with something positive to say would suggest to me that he did did think it was good. Otherwise, why bother say anything beyond simply thanks but not thanks. Are there any agents with Jewish-ish-sounding names that you could try?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true about the agent taking time to say something positive, I didn’t really think of that.

      I did think about the Jewish name thing, but I’m not sure how successful it would be. A lot of “Jewish” names are just Central/East European names and don’t indicate much about background, especially after a couple of generations of intermarriage. I’m currently working through a directory of agents in alphabetical order and I’m going to stick with that for now, but I can change tactics in the future if I want.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hope interview goes well today. But am slightly concerned that you are putting yourself in another position of stress — if you get offered the job you will be very anxious about the decision and the change — and if not, it’s another blow to your self esteem. And haven’t you answered your own question when you write: “To be honest, sticking in my current job and working hard at my writing would be the best thing for me.” ? I’m just concerned that you are taking on a lot at once — marriage plans, trying to reduce your meds and now a possible job change. Also wondering if your current job has any scope for development, promotion or use of some library skills? Even though it is not your ideal job, holding down a stable job over a period of a year or two will look good on your CV as well as being good for your own self esteem. I also note, with some amusement, your comment: “I don’t let myself write, because I enjoy it too much.” Why on earth not? I get the impression that you have a tendency to punish your self and maybe feel that work has to be difficult and onerous, and if it isn’t it’s time wasting and self indulgent?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My current job and writing would be the best thing for ME, but I have to think about E now too and I don’t want her to bear too much of the burden of supporting us. Plus, I guess I want to please my parents too and I’m not sure what they would think about my devoting so much time to writing without being published (or paid).

      I’ve stopped the medication change, so I’m not concerned about that. My current job has zero chance for development, and the only promotion opportunity would be if J leaves. I don’t think I would want his job if it became available; too much inter-personal contact and talking on the phone.

      It feels indulgent to write when there are so many other things that require my attention, particularly things other people (or God) want me to do. I sometimes think that God wants me to write, but I’ve never been able to hold that idea long enough or strongly enough to cut back on other religious activities to make room for it. Then I need to help with household chores and I feel too tired after work on work days to write. Plus, I’ve never really felt able to say to my parents that I want to write instead of working full-time and I feel bad about making E bear our financial burden, as I said. I would feel negative too about writing so much and not getting paid.

      Like

  4. I wonder if talking one-on-one in message form with the person on the forum who is also on the spectrum would be helpful? Surely he would understand that you didn’t have a diagnosis and that things were slowed (and often misinterpreted by you) due to that. Maybe he would have some pointers. You had excellent schooling and have ability, but your confidence is lacking. The good thing about confidence is it can be gained.

    Liked by 1 person

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