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When You’re Ready to Hear It

Years ago I was standing in the crowded lobby during an RWA National conference talking to an author about her career. She was reminding me of something I had said to her a few years earlier, and while she thought it made sense at the time, it hadn’t really clicked until recently. And when it did, suddenly, everything seemed to make sense and a book deal soon followed. One of the things we were talking about is how much you can hear and read and learn and how it can all make sense, but not necessarily click; that somehow, you have to be ready to hear, really hear, what people are saying, and when you do it’s like magic.

I think about this conversation often and remind myself when I’m giving advice, whether it’s to my clients, at a conference, or through the blog, that not everyone is always ready to hear the words I’m saying, but when they do it will be like magic. I remind myself of this when I think of my own career too, how age and experience have made me wiser and yet how much more I still expect to learn. How things people said to me in my younger days may not have made as much sense at the time, but boy do I rely on those words now.

So continue to absorb all the information you’re getting, continue to learn and study, and continue to write and I swear, I really do, when your subconscious decides you are ready to really hear what someone is saying, you too will feel the magic.


Category: Blog



  1. Jessica, This is one of the most beautiful and profound posts you've written. (Yes, you're a writer at heart!) I couldn't agree more. At 40-mumble-mumble, I'm so much clearer of so many things. There's a saying from the Kybalion written thousands of years ago that says, "The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding." The older we get, the more we understand. And the more we understand, the more we realize how much more there is to understand…

    And, like you said, those moments of "realization" are indeed magical.

  2. You are so, so right, Jessica. Just file the advice away and your subconscious will retrieve it when it's ready.

    I'm going to print out a copy of this post and make my 16-year-old memorize it. Of course, he won't see the value of it for another ten years.

  3. I had one of those ah-ha! moments not too long ago regarding writing. I have no idea why, but I was doing yard work when suddenly I thought, "Wow, being a writer is hard." Which seems obvious, isn't that what writer's and agents spend so much time blogging about, how difficult and touchy the business can be?

    So before I started querying, I had to stop and really think "is this what I want to do?" Because I love writing, and I didn't want to loose something that I loved and have it turn into a spiteful job.

    But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that writing is what makes me happy. It makes me feel creative, and alive. It's exciting! And if I have a chance, even just a shot, to share my work with the world, well I say "bring it on."

  4. Nice post. Perhaps, that's what I need to do. Sit still, think on all I've been told, and then wait for the click.

    Hopefully, it will be the door of opportunity opening 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Amy Talley

  5. Advice is such a dangerous gift – motives for giving, as for any gift, may be muddled and muddied; reception can be equivalently ambivalent.

    Much better, I have learnt, is to state experience and leave the receiver to decide his or her own mind as to its relevance.

  6. Years back one of the writing columnists (might have been J. Michael Straczynski) for Writer's Digest commented that his writing instructor told him that "your writing career is where it is for a reason."

    That is to say, if you're unpublished, or unagented, or your writing career has stagnated, it's probably not bad luck or the "the system" keeping you down. It's you.

    I've often postulated that even the best writers in the world think they're better than they actually are. In other words, we all THINK we're better writers than we actually are. And by knowing that, we should always work harder to get better.

  7. That's so true, and a little scary. I think about the stories I submitted a year ago, when I really thought they were submittable, and when I read them now they make me cringe. A year from now, will I feel the same way about this year's submissions?

    I know I'm learning as I write, but I sure hope that "ah ha!" moment will come soon.

  8. 'Tis true.

    Sometimes things 'click' without me realizing it too. Like once I noticed I write in 'threes' and I asked a much wiser, way more experienced writer why I did that, because I didn't do it on purpose. She said the 'threes' were 'thesis, antithesis, and synthesis' and it's a good thing to write like that. And I probably picked it up from watching or reading my favorite stories like STAR TREK (Kirk, Spock, McCoy.)

  9. For what it's worth, I know when my "aHA" moment came–for years, editors had been telling me to "write your own story." Wasn't that what I was doing? Well…no. I was writing what I thought they wanted to read. It wasn't until I threw away any dream of publication and wrote the story I wanted to read, at which point I must have written my own story, because I got my first NY contract with it–and the sixteenth story in the series since 2006 is due out this week. I had to learn to write for ME, not for some imaginary reader. The nice thing is, that by selling a series I personally enjoyed, I'm able to continue writing in that world without growing bored by it.

  10. Jarred- so did I! Which works for me, so I thought I might be onto something until I re-read it 😉

    Becke- oh, me too. I look back on things that I wrote even six months ago and go "GAH!" sometimes. The good news is that, on about equal occasion, I manage to go back and say, "Okay, that's pretty good!" Some things click faster than others.

    Jessica, thanks for the reminder. I think I'll print this one out and stick it in the blank pages of my journal, so that when I end up getting to them I will have a nice and unexpected reminder that everything's a process.

  11. Great post, and timely, too. Yesterday and the day before I had a series of little "aha" moments, which, quite frankly, scared me because otherwise I would have let major mistakes in my story go by. I even asked myself, "Where on earth did those little realizations come from?"

    You're right about the absorbing. It really does make a difference.

  12. This is so true, and I love those moments. Suddenly everything makes sense and you stand there wondering how you missed it before, but then you dive back in and everything goes swimmingly.

  13. I believe wholeheartedly in "When the student is ready…" however, the student doesn't always hear the teacher correctly. Ha ha.

    A year ago I had the great good fortune to have a NYT bestselling author read and critique a chapter of my work. She told me I wasn't setting my scenes up.

    I went back to the Ms. did what I thought she'd said, felt happy and began to submit. Last week I had an epiphany and understood. Oh well, better late than never. The next manuscript will be better.

  14. This was a great post, Jessica. I'll remember it – truly. Sometimes things just take time to perculate, and it's good to trust the process. When it's time, it will happen.

    I guess that's true of all writing. You have to trust the process. It may not seem like it's going anywhere, but then it all comes together.

    Thanks, Jessica.

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