On fretting, neuroses, and the fact that so many things are out of your control.

My name is Victoria, and I am neurotic.

If you’ve followed this blog for more than five minutes, that probably feels less like a confession than a duh moment, but it’s true.

Neurotic. Control freak. Type A.

It’s funny–and by funny I mean distressing–because this is a VERY common trait in writers (we are, after all, constructors of our own worlds), and yet it’s probably the worst trait to have as an someone involved in publishing. The sheer number of things out of your control is enough to send even the least neurotic of us reaching for a paper bag or a bottle of wine.

I made a list of the PUBLISHING ONLY things (disqualifying things like the fact I’m moving in five days and don’t even have boxes) stressing me out right now. And by right now I mean TODAY. At this MOMENT. Of the things on the list, I think I ONE of them is in my control. A glimpse?

–Blurbs (scary, never become less so)

–Pre-orders (yeah, I watch them)

–Chain store placement (ughhhhhhhhhhhh)

–Next project deadline (it looms, IT LOOMS)

–Final cover treatment (will it be glossy? matte? both?)

–Buzz (the creation and maintenance of)

–Reception (*nail-biting*)

–Online exposure (*waves arms back and forth*)

–Giveaways and mailings (I’m behind, as always)

I love my job.

I say it almost every day online.

But really, I should say that I love the parts of my job that are in my control.

What’s in my control? THE WRITING OF STORIES.

The rest of my job, which is very much not in my control, but rather in the publisher’s control, and the industry’s control, and the readers’ control (yes, yours) and luck’s control, that part TERRIFIES me. That part keeps me up at night. And if I’m not very, very careful, that part can obstruct, interrupt, or damage my enjoyment of the part I can control.

I feel like I have to become increasingly vigilant about my mental state. I’ve started to shield my creative process, to guard it from the interfering–if not paralyzing–truths of the less creative side of the process of publishing. The conundrum lies in the fact that, because my OCCUPATION is currently listed as AUTHOR, I cannot shut the business side out. To survive, I have to be increasingly aware of the way it works, and the way I can best work within it.

So. How can someone both protect their creative selves from the business of publishing, while striving to be aware of the business of publishing? It’s a question I’m still trying to answer.

As a neurotic person, I cannot be fatalistic. I cannot simply write my book and hit send and hide in the corner of my cave and hope. Or, I suppose I COULD, but I won’t. I want to do everything in my control to help my books succeed. Because I want to keep writing books.

There has always been a strange urgency to my involvement in publishing. It probably comes from the fact I finished university, and went on sub the same week, and gave myself the summer. When my first book sold right around Labor Day, I decided to make it as an author for as long as I could.

That was three and a half years ago.

They’ve had many, many rocky moments, but I’m still going. Some days it feels futile, a race in which I’ve been given a lead, but my competitor is faster, and catching up, but the stubborn part of me is determined to keep my word, to make it work as long as I can. So that’s a factor, that want. That drive. The other reason I’m so involved in the publishing process, always digging my hands into the tangle of cables and cogs, trying to find what makes publishing tick, is because I love it. I LOVE being involved. I love promoting. I suspect it’s because when I AM promoting, I feel in control. I’m actively helping my books.

Bringing us right back to the neurotic/control freak thing.

But at the end of the day, there will always be more things out of my control than in them. And that, lovelies, is the hardest truth publishing has taught me.

As you can tell by that list of stressors–drawn from only one moment and one book–it’s a truth I struggle with every day. And of course, the Type A in me approaches the problem every day hoping to find a solution, a way to exist in publishing without feeling like my future is constantly being played for in a game where I am so often a spectator, not a player.

I don’t have a solution. Now and then, I find a way to transfer a stressor from the OUT OF MY CONTROL column to the IN MY CONTROL one, but that’s about it.

I know that, by nature of the process, as I continue down this road, more and more people are looking to me for inspiration, ideas, advice, answers. Many times I have something to offer, a trick, a tip, but there are times, like this, when I wish someone could tell ME the key.

The key to shutting the world out, off, tucking it away while writing, forgetting about its necessity, its weight, the role it plays in keeping you afloat, even while it drags you under.

That is a key I would keep.

7 thoughts on “On fretting, neuroses, and the fact that so many things are out of your control.

  1. I’m only starting to have to face the number of things outside of my control when it comes to the process of publishing, but I accidentally started a habit that’s been very helpful for me personally. I keep a small notebook by my computer, and after every Publishing-related phone call or email, after hitting Send (which is a very scary button), I write something down. Maybe just a name, or a fraction of an idea, maybe a description of a piece of architecture or a mountainscape. Just a fragment of any project I haven’t started yet, something with zero pressure on it yet, something for pure enjoyment. It reminds me why I love doing what I’m doing, how grateful I am that I *get* to do this.
    And it gives me something to treasure without the razor-edged anticipation that comes with sending it out into the world in any measure. It helps.

  2. Loved this post. All so very true. I admire and sympathize with you.

  3. Cheryl says:

    For me, the key is trusting that NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS it’s ultimately for the best in my life, that there is something I need to learn or somewhere I need to go, and this is the path there. It’s trusting that in the end, things have a way of working out. So yes, do what you can do, set aside what you can’t, and trust that it’ll all be okay ❤

  4. Even with self-publishing, when you’re supposed to have complete control over everything, there are still so so so so so many things out of your control. It’s maddening.

  5. Sounds like you need a publicist, if only to get notification of most of that stuff instead of you and then just tell you “Everything’s great!” whenever you ask. (Also, maybe they handle mailing out prizes for you?)

  6. Leigh Caroline says:

    on the boxes: Go to Lowes, you can buy boxes for less than a buck each.

    And I don’t know if it would help you, but when there’s too much out of my control and I freak out, I find it helps to start listing things in other areas of my life where I have control. I can control what I eat, what I wear, what time I get up most days,etc. Just so the out of control list looks smaller in comparison. And then remind yourself constantly that stressing out about the things you can’t control of even influence is a waste of resources. You only have so many spoons in the energy drawer. If you use them all up on stressing about uncontrollable things, then you have no left for writing or cupcakes. *hugs*

    (And really, you’re doing amazing! Seriously, the novels I wrote in college were no where NEAR as amazing as The Near Witch. You have the skills to go very, very far. Keep at it, and we’ll keep gobbling up the books!!)

  7. This makes me want to go work on my WiP. The only thing I have control over at the moment.

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