How Flexible Are You?

I’ve never prided myself on being a flexible person. I wasn't one of those girls who could bend over backwards or do the splits. And I certainly never managed to hug my head with my feet or other crazy combinations.

Aside from my lack of physical flexibility, I’ve always had a somewhat firm nature. I like to think of the positive aspects of my inflexiblity—that I’m strong, solid, and unbendable, particularly in the face of hardships.

But along with the positives also come the negatives. For example, when eating at favorite restaurants I’m unwavering in ordering the same thing every time, much to the chagrin of my connoisseur husband. I prefer the predictable. I like making plans and staying organized. And I don’t always leave room in my tight schedule for the unexpected.

With having five children, of course I’ve had to learn to be much more flexible and spontaneous! But it’s still not something that comes naturally.

I also have a hard time switching gears when it comes to my writing. But in a writing industry that is evolving at a fast pace, a writer who isn’t willing to be flexible and bend with the changes, is likely to be left far behind.

I recently did a Skype interview with author Joanna Penn (known on Twitter as @TheCreativePenn). Joanna successfully self-published her e-book Pentecost and has also built a large web presence. In our interview she asked me, “How do you see your writing future shaping up? Will you stay in traditional publishing or try indie? Will you stay in historical romance or do another series under another name?”

While I might not have definitive answers about my future at this point, Joanna’s question really got me thinking about the various areas in which we as writers need to be flexible:

1. Be willing to embrace new ideas for our stories.

My first two books are inspired by real life people. The Preacher’s Bride (which is on sale on Kindle for only $4 right now!) is a fictionalized version of the romance between the prolific writer John Bunyan and his wife Elizabeth. The Doctor’s Lady (releasing in less than two months!) is based on the first American woman to travel overland to Oregon. I love writing stories inspired by women of the past and I want to bring these forgotten heroes to life.

However, my third book (and possibly the next couple after that) won’t be inspired by real people. They will still be historical romances. But my publisher doesn’t want my brand to be too narrowly focused on inspired-by stories and so has asked me to broaden the scope of what I write.

As difficult as it was for me to switch gears, when I finally started writing Book 3, I fell in love with the story. My point is that to stay alive and relevant in this industry, we have to try new stories, hold our ideas loosely, be open to suggestions, and be willing to change with the times.

2. Be flexible with publishing choices.

I have a good working relationship with my publisher, and we’re in the process of talking about another contract. I’d love to keep writing for them long term.

However, like most published authors, I can’t ignore the growing trend toward self e-publishing. I need to remain open to the various possibilities that the future might bring. We may quickly be losing the distinction between self and traditional publication as more and more authors put a foot into both. We’ll likely see a lot of overlapping, perhaps parallel career paths.

Modern writers need to have an open-mind about publishing options and realize there isn't "one right way" anymore (if there ever was).

3. Be willing to accept social media changes.

No writer in today’s publishing world can afford to snub social media. But surprisingly I still run into writers who turn up their noses at some aspect or another of social media, largely because they don’t understand it, but usually under the guise of not having enough time.

The good ol’ days of a writing career being all about writing are long gone. In the twenty-first century a professional writer needs to learn as much as they can about social media and how to utilize it effectively. Writers who insist on sitting on the sidelines will miss out on playing the game. (However, we also need to be wise about when to jump in to social media. Read this post by agent Rachelle Gardner for more advice: "First Things First.")

For those of us already making good use of social media, we need to remain flexible too. Various social media sites will come and go with importance and relevance, and we need to be willing to evolve with the changes.

Your turn! How flexible are you? Is it easy for you to roll with changes? Or (like me!) do you struggle to switch gears? In what area(s) do you struggle the most to remain flexible?

P.S. Here's the Skype interview I did with Joanna. It's quite long (24 minutes!). But you're welcome to take a peek!

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