I’m a bit of a control freak.
I like my shams folded and thrown over the couch just so—the scene must never look too contrived nor too chaotic. I am physically unable to fall asleep knowing something is left on or left unfinished. I’ve awoken at odd hours before both to sleep the computer and to transfer forgotten water glasses from the coffee table to the dishwasher. I practically get shingles watching my boyfriend do the dishes—Did he just put the sponge face down in the sink to dry? Is he loading the plates facing away from the water jet? That same boyfriend notes my tendency, or rather my physical need, to run in front of him on jogs. I try slowing down and letting him take the lead; this lasts for two generous seconds—vomit crawling up my throat the entire time—before I can’t help myself.
I am, indeed, not a bit of a control freak, like I stated earlier. I misspoke. I am a full-fledged floorboards-dusting, let-me-fix-it!, don’t-touch-that! control freak.
And what I’ve come to notice—or, more accurately, what I’ve known my whole life but have taken calculated steps to avoid—is that, in writing, you’re rarely in control.
As a writer, the smallest sliver of control you’re granted is over the words that represent a story—the physical (or often digital) ink that you press into physical (or often digital) paper. Do I want to describe that article as convoluted or as arcane? Was the doll pattern on the dress animate or lively?
This—word control—may initially sound like a huge win. Words? Ink? Paper? What else is there to a story?
And it’s all out of your control
There’s the story itself. So often stories take you miles away from where you thought you’d end up or, even more often, miles short of where you thought you’d end up. The story controls you and, if you’re a decent writer, you let it.
Then, there are the readers. Humor and emotion are subjective. You know the saying God knows…? Well, I can assure you that even God herself doesn’t know how readers will respond to your writing. (You like that I made God female, don’t you? Word control, baby.)
Then, there’s the publishing industry. And that, my friends, is numero uno for no controllo. Agents and houses and editors the ever-unpredictable market. Costco and Barnes and Noble and the recurring threat of e-readers and, the even more recurring threat of no readers.
It’s frightening, indeed. But I will say that, for all loss of control and sleep and sanity that is involved in writing, we do get some perks. After all, in what other career path is it acceptable to drink a Bloody Mary at 11 a.m. on a Monday or to step out back, still in your robe at 5 p.m. and release the most primal scream you can muster for all of the neighborhood kids to hear? Or to not comb your hair? Or to spend an entire day reading, calling it “research?”