Thursday, December 6, 2018

5 Writing Life Lessons Learned by Choosing an Orthodontist

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I’m a firm believer that you can learn lessons about your writing life anywhere—as long as you’re paying attention.Case in point? I got the idea for this blog post from taking my oldest to three different orthodontists. 

Stay with me.

My daughter has disabilities and nothing—nothing—is ever straightforward. But even with 15+ years of experience, I was surprised when our dentist wanted us to see three orthodontists to get their opinions on the correct path forward. 

Three? Seriously? Even after I made the appointments, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t need three different opinions. This made no sense to me. Our dentist clearly respects and trusts these orthodontists. Why did I need to get all of their opinions?

Most confusing of all was this remark that she made as we wrapped up our discussion. “I truly believe after you’ve seen all three of them, you’ll know what the right path forward is.”


While I’m an expert on my daughter, I’m not an expert on teeth, jaws, palettes, etc. How would I “know” the right path?

You’ve probably already guessed what happened. When I walked out of the third appointment, I had a great sense of calm, because I knew what we needed to do.

It won’t be easy but it’s the best path for our situation. And here’s the real kicker . . . I wouldn’t be confident in this direction if I hadn’t gotten all three opinions because each one brought something important to the discussion.

So, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with your writing? I’m glad you asked.

1. You need people in your writing life who not only know what they’re doing, but who can put you in touch with experts in different areas of publishing. At various times in your career this could be a writing friend, your agent, an editor, a social media expert, publicist, etc. This is someone who has your best interests in mind and who is willing to say, “I think we should get some outside opinions on this.” The flip side of this? Avoid people who think they, and only they, have all the answers. 

2. Contradictory opinions are not always a bad thing. We’ve all been there. We have our work critiqued and can’t decide which suggestions to heed and which to ignore. Or we submit to a contest and the feedback is all over the map. It may be tempting to think that the different viewpoints are worthless (especially the ones we don’t like). But in my experience, even when I’ve received wildly different scores, there’s always been at least one piece of valuable information in each of the judges’ responses.

3. Be very careful about who you go to for advice.THIS IS CRUCIAL and there are two parts to it. 

First,if you’re unpublished and we’re talking about “what direction should I take the plot” kind of questions, be careful that you don’t let a critique group hijack your story. I love critique groups but if the group is made up of unpublished writers be careful that you don’t get led astray by someone’s personal preferences.

Second,if you’re at the point of obtaining representation, paying for an edit, or contracting a manuscript, you cannot be too careful. This is your career, your future, your “baby” we’re talking about, but I’ve seen writers jump at the first agent or first publishing opportunity that comes their way, and those choices have left them in situations they can’t fix. Sadly, not everyone who claims to be an agent or an editor knows what they're doing. And not everyone with “publishing” after their business name is a quality publisher you want to be affiliated with. 

4. You’re going to have to see three orthodontists. Just kidding.But you should get input from multiple sources before making big decisions. How? You’re going to have to meet some people (sorry, introverts). Go to conferences, join online groups, read and comment on blogs like this one, do your research, and develop a network of writers you can reach out to before you make any drastic changes to your story or sign any dotted lines.

5. You’re the only one who can make these decisions. Ultimately, it’s your call. When you’ve gathered the opinions of the experts and you’ve weighed everything you know about your story, your style, your life, your dreams, you’ll be the one who determines your direction. And if you’re confident in the quality and diversity of the advice you’ve received, you’ll know what is the right path forward for you.

I can’t guarantee that if you take these steps you’ll be able to avoid all forms of publishing drama, but you will be able to walk forward in confidence that you’ve done the best you can for the story that has been entrusted to you. 

Grace and peace,

5 Writing Life Lessons Learned While Choosing an Orthodontist - @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

5 Writing Life Lessons to Help You Avoid Publishing Drama - @LynnHBlackburn on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her new Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018 with the third book to follow in 2019. She is also the author of Hidden Legacy and Covert Justice which won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. You can follow her real life happily ever after at WWW.LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and on FACEBOOKTWITTERPINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.


  1. Thanks for making the spinach taste good this morning! I keep dreaming the solitary writer’s life will work for me - but time to stop eating the whipped cream full of fat & air and get back to reality. Appreciate you! :)

  2. Great counsel Ms. Lynn. I'm finding I need more and more help from others to learn this writing craft with each passing month. Thank you for your willingness to share your valuable lessons with others. God's blessings ma'am.