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Ronda Rich: Never be afraid to trust your own gut
ronda rich
Ronda Ronda Rich is the author of "Theres A Better Day A-Comin." - photo by File photo

Ronda Rich

Syndicated Columnist

It’s one of life’s hardest lessons to learn and then, just as hard to make it stick: Trusting an unseeable force – intuition.

Daddy preached it. “Stick to your gut. It’ll never fail you.”

Today’s generation, distracted by phones, social media and such, miss the opportunities to think deeply and, most especially, to observe.

I almost missed following gut instinct recently and, frankly, had it not been for Tink’s stern encouragement, I might have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life, definitely of my writing career.

But, first this story of a time I did, without hesitation, trust my gut. It is easier, I am learning, to trust intuition at a midpoint in your life than later, when you’ve been dealt a few gut punches.

I’d written my first novel, on the heels of two best-selling nonfiction books. New York publishing doesn’t cotton to authors who write both fiction and nonfiction. Choose. But I had encountered such a sweet experience in a small Arkansas town that I thought it was a cheery piece of fiction that would uplift audiences.

My agent, along with the overwhelming majority of New York, disagreed. “No sex, violence or cussing,” my agent said, sighing wearily. “It’ll never sell.”

That looked to be a sound prediction as we received rejection after rejection. At an embarrassingly fast speed. Then came THE call.

“No one wants this book,” the agent reported. “We’ve been turned down 50 or 60 times. Let’s shelf it and move on to something that will make money.”

My response was quick and determined. “No. We’re not giving up. We just haven’t found the ‘yes’ we’re gonna get. If we stop now, we’ll never get it.”

Three weeks later, came an unexpected call. “You’re not going to believe this.” The agent’s tone was filled with dismay. “I came in this morning and we have not one but TWO offers from major publishers for this book.”

Had we stopped weeks earlier, we would have stopped at the last “no” we got because the next two answers were “yes” and “yes.”

The book – “The Town That Came A-Courtin’” – because a best-seller, a Reader’s Digest Condensed book and a popular television movie.

You would have thought I had learned a forever lesson. I did not.

Several months ago, I finished up a second novel — having writing nonfiction in-between — and sent it off to the publisher. He read it, suggested a couple of good, sound changes, then I returned it to him for another editor to thoroughly edit.

Thoroughly, the editor did. In 22 years of publishing – with a few bestsellers – I had never been so heavily edited. A good bit had to do with “my voice” which means that because of my mountain raising on the King James Bible, I structure my sentences in Appalachian or old English style. I paid no “never mind” to that.

It was the long, handwritten note at the end of a chapter that wounded my heart and made it sink.

“Quite frankly, I find the character of Chatty to be quite unlikeable,” was the first and kindest sentence.

I was on St. Simons, reading the book that would be named for it, so I called Tink. My voice was weak and sad.

He didn’t hesitate. “Do not listen to a word. Chatty Colquitt is one of the most delightful, entertaining, layered characters I have ever read. Don’t change anything.”

I didn’t. Although, the smart aleck in me couldn’t resist writing under that note, “These comments are unnecessary and unappreciated.”

Thank goodness for Tink. When I doubted my gut, he kept me from retreating. Chatty Colquitt is the most adored character in the book. Every review by a professional or reader declares praise such as “Chatty brings many LOLs moments. Everyone wants a friend like Chatty.”

As long as it’s not downright dumb, stick to your gut. Especially creative. I can testify that it works.

Ronda Rich is the author of the new best-selling novel: “St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery.” Please to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.

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