The Right Words Can Change Your World

I’ve always believed in the right words, the idea that someone can one day say something seemingly simple, sometimes as an aside, and it changes everything. I’ve said this to a lot of authors over the years, especially when I’m told about something that was said in a workshop or meeting that suddenly resonated. Even if it was something they’ve heard thousands of times before. So what was the difference this time?

I used to believe the difference was the person who said it. That for some reason it never resonated when I told my client over and over again that she needed to do blah and blah, but when someone else said it, let’s say an editor on a panel, she suddenly got it. So why now? Why suddenly did the author hear the words she needed to hear?

It wasn’t the editor and it wasn’t me. It was the author. When she walked into that panel she was ready to hear the words. She had made the decision to open herself to really hearing what people were saying. When I said it, for whatever reason, she blocked the words. Maybe they were too hard to hear, maybe she wasn’t ready or, just possibly, she hadn’t fully opened herself up to what I, and others, were saying.

If you want to hear the right words it doesn’t mean you can just walk around waiting for someone to say them. If you really want to change your writing and your life you need to make the conscious decision to open yourself up to those words, to the messages being sent to you by the universe–from your critique partners, from agents, from editors and even from this blog.

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7 comments

  1. Jessica, this is so true. You can hear the same message time and time again, but it isn’t until you are ready to receive the answer that you truly “hear it”. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I think another issue with “listening and hearing” the right words is that those are two separate things. I might hear what someone says, but I’m listening to it with whatever baggage I associate with the words I’m hearing or the issues I’m having.

    My agent, however, has figured this out–once I hear something, she knows I’ll let it roll around in my thoughts for a day or two, until at some point I’ll realize that what I originally heard wasn’t exactly what my agent was saying. I had been running her words through my baggage, expectations, disappointments, whatever, and once I quit trying to decipher what was probably a very simple suggestion, it will suddenly become what I needed to hear.

    And that very convoluted comment is why I think my agent is terrific, and she’s probably considering blocking my email…

  3. I see this all the time with my 13 yr old. He doesn’t hear – even if he responds with a comment – until he’s ready to listen (usually when it has more relevance to him). We now ask him if he’s ‘actively listening’ and that’s become a cue for him to really take in what is being said.

  4. Critique partners are gold! I can relate to what you say here, Jessica, and I think I might be on the other side of the trenches. I’m too easily influenced. For example, if a critique partner doesn’t understand a sentence or see the point of a scene, I NEVER argue. I always think – if she doesn’t see the point, neither will the final readers; no point in explaining WHY I wrote that the way I did, because the readers won’t give me the opportunity to explain; they’ll just toss the book. So I change the scene, no resistance, no questions asked. So maybe I’m too susceptible, and that’s the other flipside of the coin, and I’m not sure it’s all good…

    1. Ana–I think you’re ahead of the game. That’s exactly right, if a trusted critique partner doesn’t understand something, the reader won’t either. And there is no point explaining WHY. You won’t have the chance with readers.

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