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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!

30 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your interview. You're a very well-spoken person. I hope your next book is a big success.

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  2. Eeek! I wouldn't say I'm especially flexible. Once I have a plan (which I don't actually try to have a plan because I don't like feeling hemmed in) but if I do get a plan, then I get very annoyed if that plan changes. Heh. I don't know how flexible I am with my writing, but I hope I'm flexible enough to be smart about things. :-)

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  3. Recently, I decided that I needed to write romance instead of women's fiction if I ever want to get published..hard choice.

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  4. I have always been in retail since I graduated from college and retail constantly changes. I have learned how to be flexible. In my writing there are so many options to become published. We have to be prepared to walk into any door of opportunity-ebooks, traditional, self-publishing.

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  5. I love that your publisher asked you to stretch a bit so you wouldn't unnecessarily pigeon-hole yourself. That's great that they offer you such forethought.

    Thanks for another (extremely) helpful post! :D

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  6. Hi Jody,
    I was very flexible when I was younger (splits, feet behind the head, etc.) But I wasn't flexible in my habits or my life. I've had to learn it. You are right. Being flexible as a writer is crucial these days, with everything changing so fast. I'm looking forward to your new release, especially since I lived in Oregon for 10 years before moving to New Mexico.
    Karen

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  7. Goodmorning, everyone! Love hearing from each of you!

    Thanks for your kind words about the skype interview, Richard. Appreciate that!

    And good point about retail, Rosslyn. I think we as writers sometimes forget that publishing is a retail venue as well. We get focused on the writing aspect--which is good! But we also have to be business-savvy too.

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  8. BTW, beautiful new profile picture, Karen! :-)

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  9. I'm the inflexible type to be sure. I currently find myself putting off learning about twitter. I know I'll have to figure it out eventually, like before my book releases next April. It's just a matter of not wanting to go through the effort of figuring something new out, and wondering where on earth I'll find any time for it.

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  10. I struggle with being flexible when it comes to social media. I don't mind being on social media -- that's part of the job and it allows me to connect with many wonderful people.

    But I feel overwhelmed by the constantly changing environment of social media. I'm not technologically savvy. It takes me a long time to learn new platforms and make them grow. I feel like I'm always running to figure out what programs will be the best use of my time, especially when new ones are always cropping up and the old ones are constantly "updating."

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  11. Namoi and Marcy,

    I hear what you're saying about social media. It's hard to keep up with the changes. I haven't branched into Google+ yet. I keep hearing about it and getting invitations. But I'm not usually the first to jump in. I will test the waters at some point, because I know I need to stay on top of what's happening. So I think it's okay to go slowly, get comfortable, and work our way in. It's kind of like getting into a pool. Some people aren't afraid to cannon-ball right in. Others (like me) have to wade in very slowly! :-)

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  12. Yeah, I never was a "splits" kinda girl either!!! Totally agree with being flexible in writing though! The industry is ever changing, so I think it is important to be WISE in our flexibility, to not grab hold of one new idea too easily, but to take steps forward in wisdom.

    Kinda like not doing the splits when you've never done it before... ya might tear something! :-)

    You are a great example of that... you did your inspired bys, but I'm sure with much prayer and listening to industry professionals, decided to branch out beyond that. Well done!

    LOVE the interview! GREAT JOB!

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  13. I am not someone who likes to live at the bleeding edge of change. I do make plans and like to follow through. However, I freelance full time (last 7 years) so I've learned in my work to be quite flexible. I do wish social media would stay still long enough for me to get on the train. It's like running to hurtle yourself through an open boxcar door not knowing what will happen once you get inside. But change is reality, and as much as I love to live in my stories, I have to visit reality once in a while.

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  14. Jody, it's so fun to hear your voice!

    I'm exactly like you when it comes to restaurants. I get the same thing each time, knowing I already like it.

    But I agree with you about modern publishing. I'd love the stamp of approval of traditional publishing, but I am open to all sorts of avenues.

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  15. Excellent piece, Jody. I was one of the hermit-authors, believing it should be enough for writers to write a good book, have a website, maintain a mailing list newsletter, and respond personally to reader emails.

    Publisher urging forced me to get on Twitter and FB. I love Twitter, but remain wary of FB. I also do a joint author blog with a friend.

    I'm not sure if this new activity will increase numbers. But I do know my readers appreciate the blog and enjoy 'tweeting with me.' Seeing them happy is wonderful. I wish I'd come out of my shell sooner.

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  16. Jody,

    I love your interview! You're so darn cute! :-) And I love hearing the details of "The Preacher's Bride" and your career details. Interesting!

    As far as flexibility, oh girl, I feel like I'm doing the virtual splits. LOL

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  17. I think it's easier to be flexible the more informed you are. There are a few blogs today about figuring out different forms of publishing. Very interesting stuff.

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  18. When I got serious about writing, I was not flexible and at times impatient, but the last few years have changed me. I'm flexible, when informed, and very patient. Never thought I'd see the day!

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  19. Fun interview!
    Being flexible is easier in some things, and more difficult in others. I'm excited to see where e-pub. will go, though I haven't jumped up on the band wagon with getting an e-reader. I'm sure I will someday.
    I haven't jumped into Twitter, though I have a blog and am on FB. But it's more about time than anything else.

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  20. Thanks for another helpful--and timely--post, Jody. I concur with other posters in that you have a good video presence.

    You, and some posters above, describe me pretty well: not a great techie, yearning to be an author/hermit immersed in my writing while someone who thrives on marketing and promotion handles those things for me. But, the reality of course is different.

    I've been on FB for two yrs (375 friends) and feel comfortable with it. I credit it with most of my Amazon sales. But I recently read John Locke's and D.R. Mathias's books about their own success and methods and, following their examples, am putting most of my soc. med. effort into figuring out Twitter. It ain't easy. I'm now following about 1,000 (with 475 followers), and it feels as if I'm trying to get a drink from a firehose. I find myself promising that "it will make sense someday" like other things I've done that were confusing at first, but for now I confess I feel close to overwhelmed.

    The most difficult thing for me is figuring out how to allot time--when I'm doing my "real" work, i.e., writing, I feel as if I'm neglecting my "job," i.e., learning how to use social media. I've always known that multitasking is not one of my strengths, but the "new" publishing model is forcing me to improve in that regard. Maybe that (aside from increasing sales, of course) is the silver lining.

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  21. Well, I just created a twitter account. Yay me? The first thing I did was look up Jody. :-) Now I'm totally confused and think I'll go clean the kitchen. Cleaning's what I should have been doing in the first place.

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  22. This is great advice. The whole broadening your brand thing is something I hadn't thought about.

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  23. I'm glad you embraced the change your publisher wanted, Jody, because your third book is my favorite so far. Readers are going to love it, mark my words. You've proven to this reader (and CP who gets sneak peeks, lucky me) that you are not only a fantastic writer (who just earned an ACFW Carol Award final--hooray!) but a flexible one as well.

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  24. Great to hear your voice Jody, you express yourself very well.

    I always used to get the same thing at restaurants. I think I'm exciting these days if I order something different.

    I'm slowly learning to be flexible, but I have tried a few different genres already so that's a bit flexible.

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  25. I enjoy writing a mix of fiction and some events I've experienced or know people who have, so I relate to your 'inspired' writing.

    I've become flexible with the adoption of my two boys. My younger son, Noah, is in the hospital with ear problems.

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  26. Jennifer, I'm sorry to hear about your son being in the hospital! Sending you hugs and prayers!

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  27. Great post, Jody. I agree that flexibility is a key attribute to cultivate...in ALL aspects of our lives, physically, professionally, emotionally. The world changes at every rapid speed (or maybe it just seems that way to us!) and flexibility helps us thrive in the face of those changes. This seems particularly true with writing, or perhaps more accurately, with publishing one's writing, since the industry is in flux. Based on my recent experience at RWA National conference in NY, I would say that e-publishing is bigger and more accepted than ever. It will provide so many more writers to become published authors and that's a GREAT thing.

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  28. It's nice to hear your voice. I feel like I know you better now. :)

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  29. Since I am a female bodybuilder, flexibility is not my strong suit...I also like to pride myself on being strong.

    Regarding writing, I am still so new to the industry that I have the ability to be "flexible." I have no old standard by which to measure.

    Watching your YouTube clip now. Hurray! :) I love video interviews with writers.

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  30. My earlier novels were mainstream and women's, and it wasn't until I felt some heavenly nudging that I began writing Christian fiction. My last two turned out to be inspirational romantic suspense... the last thing I ever expected to be writing. I'm not sure if that qualifies as flexibility or lack of focus! LOL.

    These are exciting times to be a writer, with growing social media options and so many changes in the publishing industry. I think the main thing will always be writing a really good story, structurally sound while not necessarily following a recognizable formula.

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