Saturday, July 14, 2018

Control the Controllables

Scott D. Parker

Why is it we writers and creators sometimes suffer from bouts of doubt? In my day job as a technical writer, I’m never without things to do and proper procedures to do them. Dittos for thousands of other skills. But we creators still suffer.

Mine wasn’t horrible or earth-shattering. It stemmed from a couple of things. One was the diminishing of the natural high one gets when completing a story. I submitted a story to an upcoming western anthology and, if accepted, it’ll be published in the fall. And boy do I love this yarn. Enjoyed reading it aloud to my wife who also seemed to enjoy it—not always a given. She’s a spectacular first reader/listener because she’ll tell me like it is, especially if a story doesn’t work for me. The other thing that got me down for a time was the just-as-critical sequel to writing “the end”: what’s next? With my day job, I have a rather long commute and, as a result, my personal time is quite limited. I still carve out time to write, but this week was mostly a failure. It happens from time to time. I used to see how long I could go writing each day. Then I didn’t. Now, I’m wondering if I should just so I can maintain the writing muscle.

On the business side of things, there are always a ton of things to do. Most of the time, I actually enjoy them. In fact, I’m in the middle of planning my fall’s published output and into 2019. It’s a good schedule and one I hope will reap some dividends.

And that’s where some of my thoughts went to this week: the other end of the process. The future reader seeing a story of mine, seeing the cover, reading the blurb, and making the decision to spend money. I can’t remember where I recently heard the phrase “control the controllables” but it reentered the forefront of my head again this week. What do I have control over? The prose of the book itself, the descriptions and all the meta-data, the covers and how they look, and setting the price. That’s it. There isn’t a darn thing else I control. Well, there’s one more thing: where the book is located. I’ve recently gone wide again, so my stories are available in most major online bookstores.

Well, there is one more thing I can at least have a say in: discoverability. I can control how I market, where I market, how much I spend on marketing, and so forth. But at the end of the day, it ain’t up to me whether a person reads one of my stories. It’s all on them. I cannot control their thought pattern and decision making. All I can do—all any of us can do—is put the best product out there and see what happens.

I know this is all not earth-shattering or brand-new, but, every so often, we creators need to be reminded of what we can control. It’s also a good reminder that all of us creatives have those moments of doubt. Just yesterday, famed Batman artist Greg Capullo (@GregCapullo) wrote this tweet:

For those struggling artists out there, know that I struggle too. After decades of drawing for a living, there are days when it seems like I’ve forgotten how to draw! It sucks. You suck, I suck, we all suck! …sometimes.

New DC Comics writer, Brian Michael Bendis (@BrianMBendis) followed it up with “Seconded.”

You see? We’re all in the same boat.

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