And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
I included this Eliot excerpt on my High School yearbook page many decades ago. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me still. And this week, it takes on a whole new meaning…
You know the third opinion I received from a surgeon about my back problem (“Getting Another Opinion” blogpost 10/14/10)—the third and what seemed to me to be the best opinion of them all? The surgeon changed his mind! He reviewed the x-rays and MRI results further and decided that in my case, the less stringent surgery he was originally suggesting would probably not ease my symptoms enough and he’s now suggesting the very same serious surgery originally prescribed by the surgeon with whom I first consulted. The third surgeon’s surgical procedure will require many more days in the hospital and a longer recovery time than the procedure that would be performed by the first surgeon and so…I have arrived where I started. And I know the place a whole lot better than I did when I began this journey. I am scheduled to have the surgery with the first surgeon after all. And you know what? It’s the right decision.
When I am asked what’s most important for authors and illustrators to know right now in this technological everything’s-up-in-the-air age of publishing, I say they need to know how to stay flexible. Flexibility. What an extraordinary reminder my recent journey has been as to the importance of remaining clear-headed and flexible, committed and flexible, goal-focused and flexible. What has just happened to turn my expectations and plans on their ear is what I know authors experience all the time—rejections after waiting many promise-filled months; losing their trusted editor to a job change or layoff; revising a manuscript only to be advised to put it back the way it was.
Flexibility in life means not only being able to stretch and adapt, but being willing to stretch and adapt before we even have to. Being willing doesn’t mean simply accepting, but rather being open to possibility, to change, to exploration, and, ultimately, to growth. As long as authors infuse their characters with a willingness to be flexible, readers are going to believe in those characters enough to go along on the journey with them, wherever the path may lead. And as long as we infuse ourselves with the curiosity and courage needed to explore new paths, stay open to new ideas, and change our route when the route itself changes, we will be able to believe in ourselves, wherever our paths may lead. The more we stretch and adapt, the more we will find ourselves returning to what we thought we knew, this time knowing it for the very first time.
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc