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Learning to be Flexible

The first year I worked as a school principal I led my faculty in a year-long study of personality types. By understanding basic personality differences in individuals, we learned how to work with both children and other staff members whose personalities were different than ours.

We started out by identifying the strengths and weaknesses in each personality type and deciding which mirrored the way we approached life. I learned that one of my greatest strengths was being a very dependable individual, but one of my weaknesses was the inability to be flexible. I knew right away that wasn’t good for a person in a leadership role, so I began a campaign to make myself adaptable to accepting change in my life and in dealing with those around me. I know now that God used that experience not only to help me be a better principal, but he was preparing me for the life of a writer.

When I first started writing, I thought the words I wrote were surely some of the best to ever grace a page before. Of course that’s before I joined a critique group and definitely before I met an editor. When my first book was going through the editorial process, I found my years of teaching myself to be flexible really paid off. I discovered it didn’t bother me when a critique partner or an editor suggested change. I could rewrite sentences, change words, or completely delete a whole scene if it was best for the story I wanted to tell.

That really proved to be important when I submitted my proposal to Heartsong Presents Romance for a three book series set in a fictional Mississippi town on the banks of the Mississippi River just after the Civil War. I had lived in Mississippi in the past and have always felt a connection to that state. However, the editor emailed me and said she really liked my proposal, but she had another proposal for Mississippi that she liked, too. She asked if I could change my setting to Alabama because the other proposal had the Battle of Vicksburg in it, and that battle couldn’t be moved to Alabama.

I did some research and discovered that the Black Belt of Alabama on the Alabama River was similar to the Mississippi Delta on the Mississippi River. So I picked up my characters, the fictional town of Willow Bend, and the steamboats and moved them from the Mississippi River to the Alabama River several hundred miles away. It worked great for me and for the authors who had collaborated on the Mississippi proposal, too. Now the three books have released in one volume titled Alabama Brides.

So, my word of advice to all aspiring authors is to remember that the words we write are inspired by God, but also remember He has given us the gift of editors, critique partners, and readers who can teach us how to be even better at our craft if we listen. I’m so glad God prepared me for the life of a writer, and He wants to do that for you, too. I hope you’ll let Him lead you.

Sandra Robbins writes historical romance and romantic suspense for the Christian market. She has lived in the South all her life and enjoys sharing with her readers the time honored traditions that still exist there. She is married and has four children and five grandchildren.

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2 Responses to Learning to be Flexible

  1. Sandra,

    This is a great example of how we plan and God puts us in the place and setting he wants us to be. With his blessings it always turns out better than we’d expected in the first place. Thanks for sharing this as a reminder for us to listen and be aware of where we’re being led instead of just “putting our head down and going where we planned to go.”

    Dianne

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience of learning more about weaknesses and strengths of personality type. Learning about my own strengths and thereby being able to understand and work on my weaknesses, has truly enhanced my ability to interact with all types of people and improved my life experiences.