With everything spinning out of control—routines, plans, the world, etc.—I’ve found a lot of comfort and calm focusing on smaller-scale things 100% within my control: a neatly trimmed lawn, a weed-free garden bed, a freshly organized closet, a tricky recipe followed to the letter. No surprise, a lot of people have found home renovations a calming coping mechanism during pandemic, and no except here. We’ve undertaken a lot of DIY and home improvement projects in the last six months: fresh paint colors, hanging art, rearranging furniture, ripping out and planting a new garden, home decor retail therapy.
When I feel myself spiraling with stress, I try to step back and identify something I can do—something end-to-end entirely accomplished through my own efforts, rather than wishing on stars, birthday candles, and dandelion seeds for the universe to go my way, or depending on someone else’s action.
Writing forced me to learn how to do this. Think of all the anxiety-inducing, out-of-control situations writing books involves: drafting, beta reader feedback, querying, submission, and after publication, hitting lists or getting starred reviews or getting award nominations, the list goes on! Rather than being joyful, there were definitely years when writing Stressed Me Out. I had to change my tactics.
When I was beating myself up for not drafting at a faster word count pace, when I was frustrated with my revision production, I embraced the star system: instead of measuring my accomplishments based on word count metrics so infuriatingly out of my control (curse you, creative process!), I focused on the hours I put my butt in the chair and committed to the work. When I focused on scheduling—and increasing, as possible—how much time I dedicated to writing, it gave me a sense of control over the process and my writing-related anxiety decreased significantly.
Querying? I couldn’t control the rejections that inevitably resulted. Or the timeline. (Waiting is hard!) But I focused instead on what was within my control: writing the best book I could, researching agencies thoroughly, and maintaining a querying schedule and routine.
On sub? You can’t control how editors are going to respond to your book (or when!) But with literally everything out of your hands and in other people’s inboxes at that point, the best trick was to focus on the one thing I could control: writing the next book.