For over two weeks I struggled with her advice; to make additions to the book which would involve adding “self help, resources and ideas.” I knew that her advice was warranted – she was a fabulous agent that knows what is selling in the world of books – but I was having a hard time accepting it.
Besides, she had already made suggestions that I completely agreed with and had altered the book in my own way and thought it was perfect as is. The additions and changes were really good, she said, but not enough. I had to add more of my voice, resources and how to’s. This was a problem for me as self-help isn’t my thing. Motivational writing isn’t my thing. Telling people what to do in five steps – so not my thing. I like to offer an experience and have people take what they can, but apparently, that wasn’t good enough. Without the additions the chances of her representing me were slim and the chances of a publisher wanting the book, even smaller.
To write something that wasn’t me felt wrong and I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I had seen far too many examples of writers who wrote just for market. I remember a woman who was writing a book on “how to be your authentic creative self.” Yet every idea in the book came from her favourite writers and an agent. I found this quite hard to swallow. I also had a friend who recently published a book which used my phrases and ideas and I’m sure a lot more, but she knew what the market was and money and fame are extremely important to her. She’d write whatever people would buy, it had worked so far for her. There were other writers who got contracts via friends and also wrote about being yourself and accepting yourself, only to take their advance and buy breasts. I didn’t want to do this, I didn’t want to lie to an audience or more importantly, myself.
Yet, here I was, faced with the same dilemma; change my views and make a killing at a book or hold fast to my principles and remain unpublished.
Unsure of the right answer, I did what any confused person would do – I asked close friends for advice that I wanted to hear. I wanted them to tell me that I was right in resisting the agents words and that I was right to be authentic and not write something I didn’t want to.
When I approached my best-friend Emily about this I was expecting her to agree with me. But in her nonchalant way she blatantly said, “Well, you have to give people a reason to buy the book. You have to do something else.” She went on to give me ideas, ideas that I had or would do. Huh, I thought. OK, maybe.
My friend Kate asked how the book was going and I showed her my mock-up. She loved it and I was happy. See, I told myself, what is there right now is perfect, just as it is. I replied to her with my story of how it was suggested that I needed to add more of my voice and give people suggestions for the ideas I had. Kate, being a writer and a person who agrees with authenticity as much as I do didn’t tell me I was right In fact, she told me I should do what the agent suggested.
She explained how that my voice is different than a lot of people’s and that I wouldn’t write from the viewpoint of those currently on the market. She explained that perhaps my voice was needed and that I could take the advice and instead of being someone else, I could just be me, and offer what I knew.
This kind of advice popped up in several other people until I understood that I didn’t have to be a different kind of writer to take the agents advice. I didn’t have to write about glitter, about morning pages or weekly tasks. I didn’t have to change into someone or adopt an unfamiliar style. All I had to do was do what I’ve been doing all along – offer what I know and hope that it’s of use.
I can do that.
As soon as I made the decision that I would move ahead and make the advice my own, I started to get confirmation from all over the place that this was the right decision.
Without saying a word, I began to receive a flood of email from people who told me that, out of all the “self-help” and “motivational” books they had read, my words had helped them the most. They listed names of authors who I thought I had to be like in order to take the agents advice. However, since I hadn’t received these specific kinds of emails before and only started to receive them after I made the decision to take the agents advice, I decided to take them as a sign that I was on the right path. As I’ve said before, when leap in the right direction, the universe provides. I know that I really can offer guidance in a way that’s comfortable and authentic to me and still be useful to others.
Now I can move forward with excitement instead of fear. The possibility of trying something new and succeeding, well, it makes up for the struggle. I realise that I need to challenge myself and try new things and this is a good opportunity for that. Besides, I can’t give up without trying and if my authenticity, my words, my way, aren’t good enough then I’ll accept the fact that perhaps the book won’t make it.
But somehow, I have a feeling it will because authenticity, I truly believe, has it rewards. Even if it takes awhile.