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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When They Don't Understand Your Stories

by James L. Rubart

This past December, just before dinner, Darci went outside, broke off a couple of icicles hanging from our roof and popped them in our water glasses.

“You are brilliant,” I told her.

I thought it was so creative I posted a photo on Facebook.

After posting, I mentioned to Darci, “There will be a lot of people who think you are creativity personified, but at least a few who think you just did something shockingly unsanitary.”  

I was right. Ninety-nine percent of the comments raved about how fun the icicles as ice cubes were, but there were a few comments about how disgusting the idea was because all the germs and bacteria on our roof were now in our water glasses.

The Reality

From a factual, scientific perspective, those people’s (and yours and my) kitchen sink and sponge next to that kitchen are filled with far more grotesque and deadly bacteria than would ever come off a roof.  

But that fact doesn’t matter. What matters is how those people see the idea of icicles in water glasses. They just don’t get it.

And That’s Okay!

Really, it’s okay that they don’t get it. Their opinion is valid. It’s how they feel. 

Not a bad thing in any way.

Not everyone is going to like same movies, books, plays, food, TV shows as you do. Have you ever told a friend about a movie and had them say, “Uh, I didn’t get it.”

“What! How could you not love that movie!”

The problem isn’t that people don’t always get the same things we do, the problem comes when we start changing our behavior, based on those who see things differently than us.

The problem comes when someone doesn’t get your story (agent, editor, friend, spouse, reader) so you change your story. Soften in a few areas. Beef it up in others. Snip and nip and tuck till you think it will please everyone. 

But of course it pleases no one.

Decision By Committee

My friend—and Novel Marketing podcast partner--Thomas Umstattd says, “Decision by committee is the no-fail way to obliterate a creative idea.” (Here's the episode if you'd like to know more about how making marketing choices via committee hurts you.)

I’m not saying not to get input from a FEW trusted advisers. I am not saying you don’t need editing from a macro and micro level. But I am telling you stay with your vision. 

Stay with the story that is a little bit out there, different, hasn’t been done before. 

Stay with your dream of writing that story the naysayers tell you can’t get published. (Exactly what I was told about my first novel Rooms.)

The hard reality is stories aren’t rejected most of the time because they’re different, they’re rejected because the writing isn’t strong enough. We have seen new genre after new genre created because a writer wouldn’t give up their vision.

So dream your dream. Follow your vision. Smile at those who don’t get it and keep writing.

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He's the best-selling, Christy BOOK of the YEAR, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at


  1. You're words were just what I needed to hear this morning -- and yes, I mean "hear," because I heard your voice in my head as I read your post. (Not a bad thing at all.) I'm diving back into manuscript that's daring me to write risky -- but it got lost in all the holiday clutter and normal life stuff. Now if only there were some icicles hanging off my roof so I could toss them into my water glass as a reminder to stay with the story that's different than what I've written before.

  2. Love that, Beth. And we definitely have to have you and Rob over in winter so we can get the right kind of ice in our glasses.

  3. Love this so much! Too many writers try to chase the trend, and yet trends are started when one writer takes a risk and goes against the trend. That's why I always advise people to never give up on the story of their heart. =)

    I've been listening to and enjoying your Novel Marketing podcast recently. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom!



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