Most of life is out of our control. Life is a mystery and complex and a gift.
You can eat well and exercise and still get cancer.
You can work your tail off at a prestigious college and still not find a job.
You can raise your kid’s to love and respect others and they can still turn out to be monsters.
Life is complex and a mystery. As much as we like to think we’re in control of, well, anything, it’s not true.
Does this mean we throw up our hands and say:
“We’ll leave everything up to God, chance, or luck?”
No, we control what we can control.
The artist, creative, and writer often forget these truths. They’re looking for that perfect moment or season of life when everything will line up. When the creative gods will drop an idea, image, or project in our laps.
David Long comments on inspiration for the writer:
“You can’t rely on inspiration. I don’t even believe in inspiration. I just believe in working. Work generates work. What frustrates me horribly is not knowing what I’m going to do next. And so you force something to happen… . You can’t sit around thinking. You have to sit around working.”
Long is right. Inspiration is a myth. Ideal situations and circumstances are not a thing. We can’t control if our health will hold out today, but we can control doing the work. Sitting around thinking about the work, is not work. Adding new words to the page is work.
A writer can’t control a bad review or a family member who doesn’t understand why you’d spend months writing a novel.
A writer can’t control rejection. I found out this reality last week after submitting a novel to a publisher.
“No thanks, not what we’re looking for.”
I couldn’t control rejection from a publisher but I can control the work. I can control the work that allows for the possibility of submission which might lead to the path of acceptance.
But it all starts with the work.
The artist and writer and creator can’t control their health. Or the health of others. I’m in and out of hospitals this week as I write these words. A family member is ill. Perfect health on Saturday, in the hospital Sunday.
Such is life.
I can’t control what people say, what they think, or the circumstances and events of my life. But I can put my butt in the chair. I can tap one word after the other.
No one can take away the sacred process of creation.
You can control paint on canvas, words on a page, or working on your next project. No one can steal that part of the creative process. The results are up to the gods.
We aren’t able to predict future results. No magic eight balls or prophets telling us how it will all turn out. We go in faith.
But we can do the work. You can control that today.
Toni Morrison said:
“I can’t explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn’t really be a writer.”
We can wait for inspiration, wait for the perfect situation, or we can control what we can control…
Doing the work.
Ryan J. Pelton is a teacher and genre-nomad author with over seventeen fiction and nonfiction titles to date. He also hosts a popular writing and publishing podcast, The Prolific Writer. Ryan reads, writes, naps, and nurses a Diet Coke addiction, with his wife and four children in Kansas City, Missouri. Buy a book and send his kid’s to college.