If you’re a writer, you probably like being alone, in the same way if you’re a professional athlete you probably like working out. I certainly like being alone. It is easiest to follow my own thoughts in solitude. I don’t really know where those thoughts will go until I’ve given them the time and space they need to explore the horizons of memory and desire. I’ve learned that if I give them the freedom to go where they want I am inevitably led through the forests of doubt I often cannot navigate in the noise and bustle of life away from the desk. The challenge of life away from the desk is other people. I love them, but they just do and think and say whatever they want. I have tried over the years to get them to do and think and say what I want, but this has never gone well. Everyone seems as determined as I am to lead their own lives. Unfortunately, as a writer, I need some of those other people to like what I’ve written and to buy my books. My whole career seems predicated on it. What to do?
This is the apparent conundrum all authors face. I have recently had long conversations with two different writer friends, both of whom have been writing and publishing books for over twenty years, and both of whom have recently experienced bouts of rejection from editors. The editors, they both complained, seemed to have all the power. They, the desperate authors, had none. I knew this song well. I’d sung it and sung it for decades. It is our collective despair, to see our ceaseless creative desire frustrated and silenced by the whims and preferences of other people.
I have only ever found one solution to this problem, and I always find it right back at the desk. As an author, I must keep my attention on what I actually have control over. I simply cannot control what anyone will think about what I’ve written. I can control what goes on the page, however. I alone get to determine that. I can also control how often I worry about whether other people will like what I’ve written. I never have to worry; in the end, it is always a choice.
Of course, what’s lovely about what happens at the desk is that though I am physically alone, I still feel like I am in relation to something as I follow those thoughts. Something seems to answer my questions. I prefer it when those answers surprise me. Is that really control then, or is it simply allowance? To allow a thought to go where it must is much like allowing someone else to like or not like what they must. It’s the easiest way to be in the world, and if I practice it, I’m led to stories I want to tell, and to the people who want to read them.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence. You can find William at: williamkenower.com