Thursday, January 01, 2009

Control Freak

I've harped on this in other posts, but I don't believe I've devoted a whole post to it.

In a nutshell: Only set goals you can control.

As writers, a lot of things are beyond our control. Getting an agent, selling a book or story, landing on a bestseller list, winning awards--these all rely on varying degrees of luck, right place/right time, and the support and efforts of many other people.

Because of this, writers tend to be let down a lot. When you get a rejection, lose an award, or don't sell as many books as you'd like, it's natural to get depressed.

But you shouldn't get angry, or sad, or offended. Because it makes no sense to get upset over things you don't have control over.

There's a direct correlation between dreams and disappointments. Hope is a four letter word.

Writing is all about putting yourself out there. Chefs cook food to be consumed. We string together words to be read. Having readers is half the equation.

But we really don't have much control over who reads us.

We can search for an agent, search for a publisher, search for readers. But we can't make any of them like our writing.

Because of this, we get rejections, and bad reviews, and unimpressive sales, and the resultant disappointment. This makes it hard to keep on keeping on, when the acceptance we desire is 100% out of our control.

So the secret to happiness in the writing biz is about controlling what you can.

The first thing you have control over is your work. What you write about, and how much time and effort you spend writing it, is all up to you. This is a goal you can reach.

While you can't make an agent or publisher accept your work, you can seek out agents and publishers with queries, at conferences, and through recommendations of other writers. These are all within your power, and attainable goals.

You don't have control over distribution or sales, but you can devote time to branding and seeking out fans. This won't land you on the bestseller list, but every book you help to sell is a goal you had control over.

On this first day of 2009, take a good look at your goals. Which are attainable on your own? And which require luck?

We all need luck. But your goals should be based on your hard work and efforts, not on gambling.

Concentrate on what you can do, and do it to the best of your ability. If luck smiles on you, great. If not, keep at it--unless your goal is to feel sorry for yourself. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy that writers tend to excel at.