Control

As we get older, we begin to realize that control is an illusion—one that, as I recently learned from Dr. Shelley Prevost—can cause big-time anxiety. Think about it: if you believe you have the ability to control a situation, then you also believe you’re responsible when it falls apart. You could have done more, tried harder, worked longer …

This, of course, is bull. We do not have control over what happens—not ultimately, at least.

And this is just as true for authors as it is for the rest of the world.

Say you spent the last 2 years of your life writing a book. You worked with an editor through a developmental process, you revised, reached out to test readers and took their ideas into consideration, and you had the final draft proofread. In short, the book is in terrific shape. It’s the best you can possibly make it.

So why then, when you set it up on Amazon, does all that momentum you were building stall out? Why does a reader leave a 1-star review? Why do the sales move so slow? Why, why, why …

If you have the expectation and/or belief of control, then you’ll likely castigate yourself. Maybe you should have done one more revision. Gone through one more edit. Pushed a little further with your test readers.

And all that might be true. But.

At some point, you have to concede that you’ve done your best. The person you are at this moment and all the knowledge and hard work you can muster were put into the book. It’s honestly the best you can make it today. And it’s now time to move on.

Because guess what? Your next effort is going to be better. It’ll take a little time to find your guts again, but once you get started, you’ll take everything you’ve learned in the past 2+ years and pour it into this next effort.

All any of us can do is try our best—and then realize there are trillions of things (big and small) we will never be able to account for, let alone control.

Maybe that 1-star reviewer was having a bad day and decided to take it out on your book. Maybe there aren’t enough people interested in the niche you’re writing about. Maybe, maybe, maybe …

Sometimes, you won’t be able to figure out why things didn’t go the way you hoped. All you can do is stand up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

And when you’re ready, I’m here to help!

Article: “Self-Care Is Not Optional.”

“When facing down an overwhelming task, we’re typically told to break it into smaller, more easily managed pieces. When writing a book, for example, we might start with a single statement, giving us just enough insight and motivation to begin brainstorming the main characters. … The biggest mistake we make in this process, however, is laboring under the delusion that 100 small tasks take less effort than one large task.”

From Self-Care Is Not Optional.

Going Analog: the Experiment.

For four of the past five days, I’ve stayed off email and text after 12:00 p.m.

On Friday, I tried an experiment. After dinner, I got online and browsed entertainment sites for an hour: Pinterest, Buzzfeed, et cetera. After watching a few episodes of Ripper Street, I went to bed at the normal time, and guess what? My mind was ping-ponging on all sorts of subjects without my consent. I tried to quiet it down but couldn’t. Sleep was fitful.

Continue reading

Going Analog, part two.

I found out yesterday that I can delete both mail and text (including SMS) from my iPhone while leaving it usable for music, photos, GPS, and other necessities.

My plan is to still keep it turned off unless absolutely necessary, but now when I’m out on a hike, I can take a picture or listen to a playlist without seeing that new work is coming in. Freedom!

Going Analog.

This weekend I was inspired to continue with the idea of less by three things: this article, this website, and a conversation with my boss, who doesn’t own a smartphone and yet somehow manages to still, well, manage.

After spending the weekend boxing up even more things I don’t need, last night I finally deactivated my Twitter account (I haven’t been on Facebook for years). This morning, I ordered hard copies of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary and thesaurus: the two most important tools of my trade (after CMS).

The goal is simple: to stay offline as much as humanly possible.

Continue reading

Working & Homeschooling: a Realistic Approach.

I have homeschooled my son since he was in kindergarten. There have been many challenges, some of which I’ve documented, but overall, learning at home has helped my son thrive.

With so many changes this year, however, homeschooling began to feel impossible. Over the summer, I researched local school options heavily, asking questions and reading whatever I could get my hands on. Of course there would be trade-offs, but I had to be realistic. Working and homeschooling? I’m not Wonder Woman.

Learning the realities of the options I wanted for my son (a small, private school experienced in twice-exceptional kids) vs. what I could afford (the local public school and an IEP) was gutting. On top of that, my son was adamant about continuing to homeschool, no matter how much I explained that because I would be working in between teaching, we would not only have less frivolous time together during the week but he would also be more responsible for learning what was required of a 4th grader—and for keeping a good attitude toward schoolwork.

For me, working was no longer an option; it was a necessity. And we would both have to adjust accordingly. Continue reading

Working smarter, not harder.

As an editor, I have always had a method:

  1. Do a quick run-through of a project, catching all the obvious errors.
  2. Go through it again, a little deeper.
  3. Spelling and grammar checks.
  4. Final read-through, just in case.

No one taught me to work that way; it’s just the way I’ve always done things. Consequently, larger projects could take several weeks, something I considered normal.

Two weeks ago, however, my boss introduced me to a different method, one I’ll call the “once-through.” Basically, you work the project once, slowly and methodically . . . And then you’re done.

I was skeptical, to say the least. There seemed to be too much room for error, especially without the double- and triple-checking. But I tried it anyway.

My last project was nearly 150k words plus cover copy. I finished it in a week and a day. Then I absolutely panicked, thinking I must have missed a million things. I mean, come on. A week and a day? It would have taken me three to four times that using my original method.

So I spent the past few days running spelling and grammar checks, cross-referencing quotes and song lyrics, and even spot-checking every chapter, just in case. Guess what? Everything was fine.

The once-through not only allowed me to finish faster but also lessened the amount of stress and anxiety I usually feel while working. How? Well, obviously the deadline wasn’t nearly as scary. But forcing myself to work slowly and with more precision brought back the enjoyment of editing while eliminating the frenzy.

I liken it to walking meditation, where you are in motion but still focused, still paying attention. Call it “editing meditation,” if you like.

Because of this new practice, I was able to take off in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday to go hiking: something I would never and could never have done before. I would have felt too guilty, knowing the deadline was looming and that I still had so far left to go. But the once-through has given me more time and energy to focus on things that matter beyond my work, like homeschooling. I’ve also been able to take small breaks during the day to look after myself, reading and resting and getting out into nature.

In short, the once-through has changed everything. And I am falling in love with the process of editing again.

Try it. See if it works for you. And enjoy the ability to work smarter, not harder!

Hidden Lake