Blogger: Mary Keeley
Writers are continually admonished to be patient during the journey to representation and again to being adaptable throughout the knuckle-biting process to a contract and publication. This is wise advice. But have you given much thought to extending the grace of flexibility to yourself?
An editor-author I spoke to recently had this to say about flexibility: “I realized today that I need to be flexible with myself during the writing process. Each writer has areas that are easier than others; plotting for me is a stickler. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, I need to be flexible and allow more time and patience while I’m coming up with ideas, crossing out lots of them, and acknowledging that for me this part of writing is going to require my most flexible, gracious energy toward myself. Flexibility will help me not give up but continue to wade through, seeking out others who are natural plotters.”
Great advice, don’t you think? It can apply to any function of this writing life. For instance, I tend to be task-oriented and organized in my processes. But after spending years working at publishing houses, following the structured 9–5 office routine, I had to extend grace to myself in adjusting to a self-imposed working routine as an agent. It’s far from a normal schedule. The first few months were frustrating until I realized what the core issue was. Added flexibility is a welcome ingredient in my life.
Goals are a key to success in anything. But to maintain sanity in this business, your objectives have to be seasoned with the salt of flexibility. For example, say you’ve set a goal to create an astounding proposal in three months so you can submit it to a desired agent. However, when the time comes, you realize it could use another review by your critique group. By all means let flexibility override your self-imposed date.
Or, perhaps you disagree with the editor at your publishing house. The changes he or she is asking for don’t make sense to you. The editor I was speaking to responded this way about listening to editors and valuing their input: “I realized long ago from my years in editing that I would never want to have something I wrote published without an editor’s input because there are always going to be things that I won’t see on my own that an editor sees. This is a good reason to listen carefully and let their advice sink in with time to process it before closing them off.”
Again, sound advice. Surrender a defensive reaction to a spirit of flexibility while you give yourself time to think through the issue. Of course editors are human and occasionally are wrong. That’s when you bring your agent in to mediate. But that’s a subject for another blog.
To survive in this industry all of us need to be flexible in our thinking, without compromising God’s standards and values. Publishing houses are acquiring other houses, being acquired, or partnering with other entities in their efforts to keep up with new publishing models and consumer demand. Remaining inflexible and holding on to old models in this business climate would lead to their demise.
Flexibility is all about the grace that preserves a positive, optimistic outlook toward your work and your interactions. A flexible attitude will foster a teachable spirit that agents and editors look for, and it will preserve your relationships, your reputation, and love for your work.
What areas of your writing life frustrate you most? When have you experienced the need for flexibility, but it didn’t happen? When did you need flexibility, and it was extended?