Friday, April 13, 2012

Letting Go

On Monday I promised to tell you about the most difficult parts of publishing a book, aside from the actual work that goes into the book (the writing, editing, revising, swearing, etc). On Wednesday I talked about fear of failure and today I'm going to talk about control.

Even though we all know control is just an illusion most of us still seek it out. We know our plane could crash, we could die in that enormous earthquake that's supposed to hit or our employer could go belly up leaving us jobless and insecure BUT we don't focus on these arbitrary events.

Instead we focus on the little things. And when I say we, I mean me, but I also mean you, because I'm guessing that ninety percent of the readers of this blog also look for the little things that provide a sense of control over our experience of the external world.

Dual airbags, savings accounts or even something as simple as letting calls go to voice mail. I could make an argument that all these things, and many, many more are, to some degree, about control.

This dog would agree with me!
Even writing is about control. The writer shapes the plot, the characters and their experiences. Sometimes those characters seem to have a will of their own but we still choose their words and pull the strings that bring them to life.

After we've finished writing we comb through our manuscript trying to make it as tight as possible. It's crucial to control the typos, grammar glitches and awkward sentences. We spend years of our lives behind a keyboard controlling and then, one day, BAM. We have to let go.

On my daughter's first day of kindergarten, I tucked things away in her cubbie, kissed her good bye, kissed her good bye again and loitered in the doorway until the teacher told me to leave.

Afterwards I went home and called my best friend. Over the phone I sobbed, "I feel like Child #1 is an amazing piece of modern art, a masterpiece. But not everyone likes modern art. Some people hate it. What if she goes unrecognized? What if they don't love her the way I do? What if I'm the only one who ever notices her funny quirks and brilliant insights?"

And to a similar degree, this is the way I feel about my writing. It's defenseless and vulnerable. How can I bear to give it over to a harsh, cruel world where it might experience rejection? How on earth can I possibly let it go?

You wouldn't think kindergarten and publishing would have so much in common but they do. In fact kindergarten did a lot to help me prepare for publishing. I'll talk about all those commonalities on Monday.

19 comments:

Rick Daley said...

I'm doing interior design for a book right now, my last bastion of control before it hits the presses...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know exactly what you mean. What if people don't get my intentions?

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I so hear you. Letting go is terribly difficult.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I remember my oldest's first day of kindergarten. :( I look forward to hearing Monday's comparisons. That sounds interesting. :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

Oh, I'm taking my baby to Kindergarten Round-up next week. Being a parent and getting your book published really do feel a lot a like. Can't wait for Monday's post.

Charity Bradford said...

It's funny this is your topic today. Michael Offutt just reminded me that I need to let go and let the publisher handle things. That will probably be the hardest thing to get used to because for years its been just me.

Thanks for another reminder and something to relate it to!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I love the comparison of your daughter to a unique work of art and the next step to writing. Not everyone will like everything.

Kristen Wixted said...

I think about this every once in a while. It's one of the zillions of things that's hard about being a writer.

One of things that's hard about being a blogger is finding out that one of your blogger friends, one whom you believed to be a good guy, is on the dark side. At least when it comes to baseball.

Alas. On April 20th we will let the smack-talking commence. (I'm actually not much of a smack-talker but I can learn...) ;)

Johanna Garth said...

Rick, you still have a little control! ;)

Alex, that's the hardest part.

Talli, always.

Rachel, I hope it will be :)

Jenny, it is a lot but there are a lot of similarities.

Thanks Donna

LOL, Kristen! I'm going to have to learn how to smack talk too. Maybe I can get pointers from my 7 year old. He seems pretty good at it.

Hart Johnson said...

It's very hard--I think the analogy to leaving your child at pre-school is great. And maybe like that, each book will be just a little easier. I guess I have some practice with the give and take of working with an editor because of the peer review process in my day job, but I care more about the fiction--at work I am just the messenger. In the fiction, it is all me.

Carol Kilgore said...

So hard and so scary. That book is our baby, every bit as much as the living, breathing ones. Great insight here :)

Happy Weekend!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Letting go of things close to your heart is hard and when it's close to your heart, any criticism hurts.

I think comparing writing to children is appropriate, though. Both take a great deal of pain and labor to bring forth.

Lol, god help the person who doesn't appreciate the work of our labor.

Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

~Sia McKye~ said...

Ps. That same teary feeling of watching your little one go into kindergarten the first time? The feeling doesn't change with other major miles stones.

Mine just turned 17 the last of February, finished high school March, and Monday I took him for his first major job interview. As I watched him take a deep breath, square his shoulders, and walk in alone for this important first, I felt very similar. In fact, I commented to some friends on the similarity of feelings. And tears.

Botanist said...

Nice analogy!

Hmmm...when did I ever have even the illusion of control over my characters?

Pk Hrezo said...

Aw this made me want to tear up. I have a kindergartner too and I know what you mean.... putting our precious babies out there for the world to have a go and possible taint at some point. :( But you know, we just do our best and hope we've armed them (and mss) with the best. It's a harsh world, but it's also beautiful, and I believe the good will always conquer the bad.

Rachel Morgan said...

I never thought about the similarities between letting your child go off to school for the first time and letting your book out into the world for the first time. Probably because I don't have children yet!
But I certainly agree with you on the control thing! It's tough to let go...

Brenda McKenna said...

I haven't watched my oldest go to kindergarten yet...yikes! I see that control-issue link between my writing and my children all the time, though. I am super-interested to read your next post! :)

naida said...

I know what you mean about control Johanna.
And I like how you compare kindergarten to publishing. Insightful post!

Chuck said...

My wife will tell you I have a tough time letting go of any control...not in an overbearing kind of way but just in a logical way. I can't help myself. Nice post and glad you stopped by to see me during the A-Z! New follower!