The Answer to All Your Worries

My backyard. A nice place to let worries go.

As we look forward to 2012, it may not be so filled with resolutions but questions:
Will I get an agent?
When will the agent get back to me?
Why did I only get a form letter?
Will I get a contract?
When will I hear from the publisher?
What’s going on with my publisher?
What are the trends?
What marketing technique is going to make my book a best seller?

This blog post is meant to answer all those questions.

I know, it’s not April Fools, and it may not strike you as funny when some of those questions feel so serious. But the thing is, the thing this blog post is really about, is those questions can’t be answered. Those questions- or similar ones- only serve to distract you from what you can answer:
How is my writing?
What can I do to improve my craft?
What can I do to improve my professional development?
What can I do to increase my industry savvy?
Am I doing best? Why do I not value my best as enough?

As we focus on questions we can not answer, as we worry about people that we do not control and as we try to know the unknowable– we are burning time and energy better suited elsewhere.

When we allow delays, distractions and even doubt to crowd in- that is time we are not writing. That is energy we could have used to edit. Or read a book on craft. Or attend a workshop. With all the time I have used worrying and wondering about stuff beyond my control, I could have attended whole conferences for weeks on end!

As the end of the year approaches and 2012 stretches before us, it is filled with opportunity. Opportunity for you to be the writer you are intended to be. No agent, publisher, contract or sale makes you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.

Yea, easy for you to say.

Uh, no. NOT easy. At all. It is a constant practice to remind myself to focus on my own stuff. It is not something you hear once and just magically stop worrying. Part of my ongoing practice is to work on reframing anxiety producing questions into thoughts that can actually be productive.

More than a year ago, I received an exciting response from an agent (ie “I love your novel. I want to discuss representation.”) This was pretty much my dream agent. I spent way too much time wondering when the agent would call, why she hadn’t called, maybe she’d changed her mind about me. Maybe she didn’t like my facebook picture and social media wouldn’t build my career after all. Maybe she didn’t think my blog title was funny…on it went.

Common thought about worry is to push it out of your mind: “Don’t think about it. Stop worrying. Let it go.” Sure. That’s going to happen. It’s like telling you not to think about elephants. Quick! What are you thinking about? Usually, elephants.

Here’s what I do.

Take one sentence of your worrying thoughts. The one that seems to sum it all up. Why hasn’t she called? Instead of trying to push that thought away. Invite it in. Mull it over with a cup a coffee. I take my cup and stare out at my backyard. Take a few breaths and really think that through.

Are you ready for that call?

The answer for me was: NO. I wanted her to call. Because I wanted an agent. But I was not ready. I wanted to be further along on my WIP. And, I was nine months pregnant. I was not in a life position to discuss building a new career. As I focused on my stuff, I was able to let go of that worry about when the phone call would come.

Instead of spending time and energy on what someone else was doing, I was able to focus on my own tasks. Like getting my word count higher on my new novel. Like researching what to do when an agent calls and oh, yea, HAVING A BABY (a 9 pound baby at that!).

I did get that call. And when I did, I was ready. And so was she. My worry had accomplished nothing. My peace did.

Now, when I am going to get that publishing contract?

Post Author: Charise Olson

Charise Olson writes contemporary women’s fiction. She likes to say she writes California Fiction. It’s like Southern Fiction, but without all that humidity. Her characters face serious life situations and cope with humor. Someone always has a smart mouth and Charise claims IM-plausibile deniability as to their origin. Charise is a mom to anyone needing mothering (whether they think they need it or not!) and owns two alpacas. Why alpacas? Because they were cheaper than a lawn mower. The menagerie also includes two dogs and two cats. In addition to her fiction writing and family, Charise has a paycheck career in social services and education.

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12 thoughts on “The Answer to All Your Worries

  1. What a great reminder about perspective and focus. It really does make a difference. God’s timing is always perfect.

  2. Charisse, I am currently waiting for a call, too, so can relate to your point. Yesterday, what I did was think of how I could move along my writing while waiting for the call which is held up by all the holiday stuff snatching time away from both me and the caller. I decided to dive into the research for book two of my historical trilogy and that has made all the difference. Instead of dwelling on what isn’t happening, I am moving forward. This is so much more satisfying than trying to arrange my life to be ready for the call.
    Good luck with your writing and your more personal creative endeavors! Raising our children was my husband’s and my best and most important work.

    • Lucille- I was wondering what you would think of this post with your mental health career. I’m glad you liked it. That shift can really make a difference.

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