Things You Can (and Can’t) Control As a Writer

There are some things, in the writing life, you just can’t control. And that’s OK.

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It’s no secret, among those that know me well, that I’m a control freak.

Over the years, I’ve learned to suppress my urge to maintain control of everyone and everything in my life (which is why I still have friends who love me … I think). But my natural impulse to be in control often does not make writing easy.

I get frustrated when my work doesn’t take off the way I think it will.

I get annoyed when I have hard deadlines for projects, and others stand in my way of meeting those time constraints.

The fact that I send pieces of writing into the world every day, never knowing exactly what’s going to happen to them, gives me anxiety.

But do you know what? It’s OK. In learning not to try seizing control of every little thing, I’ve also learned to take a more … “relaxed” approach to writing.

What’s helped me the most is realizing the things I can’t, can’t, and can only sometimes control in my writing life.

I’ve listed out a few of the reminders that have helped me stay calm the most as I’ve submerged myself deeper into this whole “writing for a living” nonsense. Maybe they’ll help some of you, too.

Things you have no control over:

  • Other people’s opinions about your work
  • Whether your work gets rejected or accepted
  • Whether or not others approve of your career choice
  • How many people read/interact with your work
  • Whether people agree or disagree with your arguments

Things you have some control over:

  • How often you write (depending on the present circumstances in or out of your control)
  • How much money you do (or don’t) make as a writer
  • The success of your blog/other self-driven creative projects
  • Whether or not you’re doing work you love

Things you have total control over:

  • What you write about on your own time
  • Whether or not you submit/pitch work to publications/editors
  • Whether or not you query agents/publishers
  • Your professional qualifications as a writer
  • The overall quality of your work
  • Your attitude toward your work, the success of your and others’ work, your job

It’s not always easy, trying your best to move your writing career forward and not always getting the results you’d hoped for. But trust me — you’ll find the stress a lot easier to deal with if you’re not spending all your energy trying to control things you can’t.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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