Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Cluttered Mind

Over the past six months, I've discovered that uncertainty in the writing arena of my life can be crippling. In this instance, I've been uncertain over where to submit my manuscripts and to whom. At times, it has interfered with my ability to write. Every time I sit down to work, the worries float to the surface and interrupt the flow of words. At the very least, it sucks the joy out of the writing process.

Why is this such a big deal? you ask. Well, quite frankly, I'm a bit of a control freak. I like to be organized and have a clearly defined path to follow. Sad, but true. I'm also a worrier. If I don't have something real to worry about, I'll find or create something. Also sad, and embarrassing. But there it is, my flaws in the open for all to see. Those close to me know I don't hide them very well. :)

Anyway, I've been noticing how this lack of a clear path has inhibited my writing and I've pondered why this is and what I can do about it. Of course, I know I need to stop worrying and not let it interfere. But that's easier said than done.

Today I received an inspiring email in my inbox. It was from Cheryl Richardson, a life coach who is the author of several books, has her own website and newsletter, has appeared on Oprah, and does an internet call-in show. She sends out a newsletter every week, which I enjoy reading for its encouragement and spiritual approach to life issues. Part of the newsletter included these words:

"When we attempt to control an uncontrollable situation we not only waste precious energy, we clog up our mental bandwidth with junk--worry, assumptions, fearful thoughts, etc."

I tend to waste a lot of energy worrying over things I can't change. That energy would be better channeled into the things I can change. But reading this week's newsletter helped me see so clearly how all this worry was clogging up my creative channel. No wonder the writing is slow! Each time it tries to flow, I tighten the valve by thinking, "What's the point of getting this done? I don't even know what I'll do with it at that point."

And when I cut off my ability to write, I lose a lot of the happiness in my life. As many of you know, when the writing is flowing, life is good. When it's not, everyone better watch out! How sad that sometimes it is self-inflicted. What a waste!

What can I do about this? Well, I don't think I'll change from a worrier to an eternal optimist overnight. Much as my husband would like that. He's one of those irritating "glass-half-full" people. Stealing a phrase from a friend of mine, if my glass was half full, I'd pick it up and drink it until it was half empty.

But I can recognize when I'm letting those thoughts get out of hand and try to replace them with something more constructive. Or remind myself that I can worry about that later. (Is delayed worrying healthier?) I can try to remember that where I send my manuscript isn't really important until I have something to send.

Well, it is certainly worth a try. What do you do when you find yourself worrying about something that's out of your control?


PS-Check out some of Cheryl Richardson's words of wisdom at!

PPS-This is the first blog I've posted in the last month that didn't get cut off before I could actually publish it. Special thanks to the cable tech who stuck around long enough to find the problem last week! After four days without internet service, I thought I'd lose my mind.


Smarty Pants said...

I've never been a big worrier, but when I'm bothered or upset about something, my knee jerk reaction is to clean. If Aunt So and So dies there's nothing I can do about it. But I can make the arrangements at the funeral home, order flowers, get her suit to the cleaners, get the house ready for the wake, send the obit to the newspaper, etc. DB and I get in a fight? I start scrubbing the kitchen, throwing things away, reorganize. I guess its my way of controling things I CAN.

I wonder how it would work to have my heroine go into a cleaning fit when she finds out she's a vampire. :)

Kathy said...

A cleaning rampage would make her likable, SP. :)

Angel, I'm like you in a lot of ways. I dwell over whether or not my kid will win the tournament, be the best athlete, make the best grades, etc... I'm very competitive that way because I want the best for my kids. When it comes to me, though, the competitiveness tends to shift to an awkward downslant. I will let everything else interfere with my desire to write and use that as an excuse not to write. For too long I've put life ahead of my ambitions and goals, and I oftentimes feel that pattern is hard to change. But change it I will, thanks to friends like you at the play ground who through your daily blogs help me to see I'm not alone. (All of us know that writing or desiring to write readable books is a lonely business.)

Visiting your blog every day shows me that I'm not alone, that I can succeed, that I can put aside life and make time for me.

The glass is only half full as long as we realize that we've drunk our fill off the first half and become sated. Hallelujah and praised be we hunger for more!


Problem Child said...

Control freaks can line up over here with me...we're having a support group meeting.

Worrying is just part of the control freak's personality. People tell me to stop, but that's like telling me not to breathe. Delayed worrying is fine as well--prented you're Scarlett and you'll worry about that tomorrow at Tara (that really delays the worrying becuase I haven't actually found Tara.)

SP--my heroine goes on a cleaning binge in the ms when her life gets out of control. :-)


Instigator said...

I'm a compartmentalized control freak. As in I try to control absolutely everything around me - aside from the book I'm writing (cause you've all heard about my jacked up process right?) and the clutter on my desk. Yep, pretty much everything else is under my domain :-) Tell that to my four year old who apparently didn't get the memo.

I think maybe that's why I'm a panster. I don't think I could be as creative if I kept that same tight control with my characters as I do with everything else. Writing is my outlet - the one time I let myself free. The only thing that can happen is my characters do something completely wrong and I have to fix it. That I can handle. Heaven only knows what chaos would ensue in my real life if I let go of the reins.

Instigator - who also needs a support group for procrastinators anonymous anyone else care to join?

Smarty Pants said...

Procrastinators Anonymous, eh? Sounds good, but let me think on it a bit before I sign up. :)


Rhonda said...

I feel your pain, Angel! This past year has been total hell because I let myself worry and angst over things that I can't fix. (Namely my family. Brother fueding with sister, mother fueding with brother. Oy. Since May of last year and it's no better.) Anyway, the point of all of this is that I have FINALLY learned to fix what I can and say to hell with the rest. If I can't help fix it, I don't want to hear about it. That's my new motto and it's worked. :-) I'm playing catch-up now, trying to get my life back in order and I have promised myself that I will stop absorbing other people's problems and take care of my own. It's hard, because I'm a nurturer--and it sounds like you are, too--but giving myself permission to *not care* has been the best gift I have ever given myself. You'll get there!

Angel said...

Yeh, not caring is really hard! I'm doing better about it, but sometimes it is just one other thing I need to work on. :)

I can sympathize about the family stuff too. After all, what's a wedding in the family without all the upheaval to go along with it? I'm surprised my poor mother hasn't had a nervous breakdown by now.


Carla Swafford said...

Like you, I clean. Or I re-read a favorite book. Or watch a movie. Anything that will get my mind off what I can't control - And I do love controlling things. ::g::

Smarty Pants said...

I wonder if all romance writers are control freaks. Maybe we create these elaborate worlds so we can have things go the way we want them to. Guaranteed HEA. Makes sense to me.


Maven Linda Howard said...

Control freak? My problem is my family wants me to fix everything, but they never frickin' LISTEN! Especially when I'm telling them not to do something in the first place because it's gonna be a real hairball, but they do anyway, then guess who they come to? An unruly family is the pits.

I guess I'm a control freak too in that I don't want upset, I don't want things to change, I want everything to rock along as smooth as pie -- so I can write without having to stop every five minutes to stomp out someone else's accidental fire. So I try to keep everything on that even keel. Never works.

But I'm not a worrier. If I anticipate the things that can go wrong, I'd never get anything done. I handle things as they pop up.

Angel, you can't manage the market. You can't make the publisher sit down and listen. When you sell, you'll have no control over your title, your cover, or the back cover blurb. The only thing you'll have control over is how good a book you write. Take care of that first, and the rest will follow -- meaning you'll have a whole new set of problems to worry about.