The Journey to Publication, Writing

Are You A Control Freak? How to move past the Illusion of Control

I am a control freak. It’s why I don’t like getting drunk, I follow the rules, and I expect others to as well. It’s why I love order and discipline in the world, even while I’d rather sometimes that it was my rules everyone followed. And it is why I have my very own “bwahahahaha” evil villain laugh on the off-chance I become supreme ruler of the world: I’m prepared.

But, I am also a writer and someone who loves the sometimes random, unexpected places creativity can take us. It’s why I love dying silk and hand-painting wool, because despite what our desires may have been, we sometimes get something else entirely, and it is still beautiful, perhaps more so because it is unexpected, unplanned. It’s this same creativity and freedom that I love in my writing (sometimes), when the characters and the plot take you somewhere you hadn’t planned on, but it’s so much better.

That, of course, is the catch: how much do you get to control, and how much should you even try?

The simple answer is that control is a complete illusion. I can control nothing but myself and my own reactions, and sometimes even those seem to have a life of my own. To attempt to control anyone else –  their reactions, their emotions, their actions – this is an illusion that’s going to make us all miserable.

How does this apply to our art? Well, sometimes when we create something, we get caught up in the idea of wanting to convey something so precisely, so perfectly – like the scent of a flower, or the feel of a place – that we want to hammer that exact reaction and emotion we have into our readers or outside viewers. This, of course, is an impossibility, and the sooner we let it go, the better.

Yet again, this comes back to our creation of reality. What I see as a peach rose touched with the blush of pink on the tips of the petals may to someone else appear more orange, or more pink, or perhaps they don’t see the beauty of roses at all because it reminds them of an aunt who they always despised. The laugh we hear in our heads, the way some things constrict our chest with fear, these are out of our own experiences, our own memories, our own selves: no one else will ever, nor can ever, experience or see them quite the same.

So where does that leave a control freak like me, and perhaps you?

Recognize the limits of your control, and let the rest go (yes, even if it’s really, really hard). Describe how it felt to you, how it sounds to you, and be as specific and clear as you can be without going overboard, and let it be, knowing that everyone else will understand it, hear it, feel it in their own way. Give them the freedom to do so, rather than trying to force anything onto them: after all, would you want to be controlled by someone else, be subjected to the discomfort of confinement? Of course not.

Practice your “bwahahahaha’s,” control the exact degree of temperature in your house, and the way the tablecloth lays on the tablecloth, but as to controlling people, just let it go. Everyone has a unique and precious perspective, and even a control freak wouldn’t want to squash that, would they?

So, are you a control freak? What areas of your life must you exact control, and in which do you value freedom and randomness? Do comment below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.


Tools of the Trade

While “tools” often connotes hammer and saw, every career and calling has its own tools. And while being a writer may technically require less extensive tools than other callings – especially at the most basic – are you loyal to yours?

I remember when I first started writing, I loved the feel of paper beneath my hand and wrote everything longhand. I was particular about the kind of pen only so long as it had a smooth, even flow and didn’t interrupt the train of my thoughts. I swore up and down that using something like a word processor or computer put a “cramp” in my writing, restricted the flow of thought.

Now, however, I can hardly imagine going back to that pen and paper, especially when typing allows me to more easily keep up with the speed of my thoughts, to get the words down before they escape: I can type far faster than I could ever write by hand. And while I hear other writers use dictation tools, I swear that I certainly won’t: typing is good enough for me. Hmm, does that sound familiar?

What tools can’t you do without? Are you particular about the place you write? The computer? Or perhaps you’re old school with pen and paper? What is your relationship to these tools? Moreover, do these tools help or hinder your progress and writing?

I still have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with my computer, since I don’t particularly trust it and am partially convinced it’s planning to eat my latest manuscript (words scribbled into a notebook won’t suddenly vanish … unless the notebook does). However, I balance this out with backing up my work frequently, and recognizing that the speed of typing and getting down ideas on the computer balances out the occasional irritation and fear when the computer becomes less a tool and more a nemesis.

What about you? Are your tools a help or a hindrance? Or perhaps, is it less the tools themselves than your ritual and attachment to them? If you don’t have your favorite pen, does that mean you can’t write?

So far as I am concerned, a tool is only effective so long as it continues to aid progress and performs to assist in whatever task we set before it. If the tool itself (like an unreliable computer) or our potential obsessive adherence to it (like not being able to write without a favorite pen / spot / etc) becomes a hindrance to progress, can it any longer be considered a tool?

To me, a tool is something that helps me perform a task, or complete necessary work. I use a hammer to set a nail because a rock is less efficient, and my bare hand less so. But if the hammer keeps falling apart, it no longer serves the purpose and will slow down and frustrate me – such a hindrance should be discarded, should it not?

So, what are your tools? If one of them fails you tomorrow, will your work continue despite it, or fail because of it? Just a thought …

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.