In Writing And In Life, You Have To Be Able To Bend

For the first time in over a year, today’s author interview did not work out as planned.  [Collective Gasp!] A jumble of small miscommunications, perhaps.  Or maybe one big snafu.  Anyway, I was knocked off kilter by the whole thing. I was disappointed more by the fact that the schedule was interrupted (I am a crazy creature of habit) and that the continuity and consistency of Women’s Fiction Writers would be compromised, than that this new-to-me author didn’t answer my interview questions and kept me hanging until, oh, 7pm Wednesday night.

And then I realized that this was just another one of those things. Life is full of them.  As is writing.   And so my advice to myself was simply: bend.

Bending doesn’t imply weakness, it implies flexibility.  I can pop right back to where I started or take on a whole new shape.  And this makes me think about my book, THE GLASS WIVES (which had a different title until this perfect one hit me last summer) and how I resisted certain suggestions by my agent Jason Yarn when we’d just stepped off the curb into our agent/author relationship.  I soon realized that making those changes didn’t even mean those changes had to stick (but of course they did). I saved all my deleted parts and if version 1 was better than version 7 (which face it, it never is, but work with me here, it’s an example) then it’s my decision which version anyone ever gets to read, especially in those very early stages. What I realized back then with Jason, was that listening — really listening — employed my deepest personal resolve.  I had to trust myself enough to let go a little. I had to be flexible enough within the confines of my own personal character — to take suggestions on something as personal as my writing.

I’ve since grown accustom to bending, to shaping and reshaping my manuscript with suggestions from my rock-star, rock-solid editor, Brenda Copeland, even if a few of those suggestions made me think of things I hadn’t before.  I resisted the temptation to scream (in my head) ENOUGH!!!! because  I knew enough to bend with all my might. I knew full well that the choice was mine.  And that’s empowering.

When writing, the suggestion to bend and change our work somewhat may come from outside — but the real work and the real words come from inside.   And just like with other things in life, no one really knows how far they can go unless they try.  Look at me, I’m writing a blog post at 8pm on a Wednesday night.  For little-miss-obsessive-planner over here, this is very bendy. But, I figured that bendability (which doesn’t seem to be a real word — until NOW) has to apply to writing blog posts as well as novels. As well as life in general.

Amy xo

P.S. I do realize I was actually ditched by this author, but we’re not going there.  Instead…if you didn’t catch my post on Writer Unboxed on Monday about the great debut author group, Book Pregnant, bend your little finger right here and click! 

30 thoughts on “In Writing And In Life, You Have To Be Able To Bend

  1. As Phoebe said once in a Friend’s episode, “I’m very bendy.” You are very bendy, indeed. I literally felt your panic, thinking about having to write an unplanned blog post on a Wednesday night, when you were likely tired, winding down, ready to call it a day. We all need to “Bend it like Beckham!” and make it around those trying to block our winning shots. And thanks for sharing your experience of, sometimes reluctantly, taking your agent’s editorial suggestions to heart. It’s tough to be flexible enough to really listen and objectively evaluate whether they benefit your story. You obviously exercised just the right amount of flexibility.

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  2. Well, that author’s loss because you are (to use a word that’s SOOOO over done but dang if it ain’t sometimes the most perfect word . . . ) AWESOME! 😀

    There was a bit of advice that my mother, of all people, said about Sweetie that completely changed that book -for the better. I almost didn’t listen. I mean, it was my MOM . . . and I heard it second-hand from my brother, not from her directly – but she had read a draft and said something to the effect that the first part dragged some. I thought, But but . . . I’ve already sent it to my editor! it’s DONE –Those chapters are needed! And I had JUST sent it to the editor with a big ole sigh of relief –

    I tossed on that all night, and the next morning I woke with a decision – my gut agreed with my mom and I had to admit I’d been angsting about that very thing and was trying to ignore it (never ever ignore that gut!). I emailed my editor and told her what I needed to do – she agreed – I deleted thousands of words – several chapters in the beginning and a couple at the end. I believe it saved the book.

    So sometimes even unbending and listening to your mom works out *laughing*

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  3. This is one of the best pieces of advice you can share, Amy, because it is SO true. I have come to LOVE getting feedback from my agent and my editor because I know it will make my work stronger and bring out elements I had not even imagined. It doesn’t mean a loss of control of tastes, just another sprinkling of spices to bring out even more flavor to your dish!

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  4. What great timing that I stumbled across your post today. I’ve been taking a deep breath waiting for edited manuscript to arrive shortly and then dig in to lots of reworking. I’ve learned that the more I feel that inner pushback to a suggestion about my writing, the more I’m likely to get from exploring that new direction. I guess it’s the writer’s version of that ridiculous gym slogan, “no pain no gain.” Thank goodness for learning and growing!

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  5. I’m still not great at being bendy (Densie, it also makes me think of Phoebe), so in the meantime I’ve have to practice being still. My first instinct is to defend, so my strategy is to only ask questions, and generally the questions have to start with “what” not “why” (what are you thinking doesn’t qualify). It forces me to focus on what the other person is trying to say, and then sort out my feelings later rather than letting them cut off the conversation.

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  6. I haven’t been dumped by a guest blogger or interviewee (yet) but have had a few leave me hanging until the very last minute, so I’m biting my nails… There is lots and lots about this writing business that requires us to be bendy, a great reminder.

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