Out of Control

New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump (Sweet and Savory Romance series) lacked the willpower to diet or the talent to master under-eye concealer. So she left a career in television for a career in writing.

As a wife, mother, and author, these words keep her anchored: The only thing you can control is the words you put on the page.

Fellow author JoAnn Ross emailed that advice when Shirley was in a funk because her newest book wasn’t selling as well as she hoped, her editor wasn’t reading her next proposal, a reviewer had panned another book, and …

Shirley let those irritations affect her writing. Her words took a backseat as she scrambled to brainstorm ways to reach readers. She thought that if only she did this or tried that, everything would be perfect. Then her words would flow.

Many writers are control freaks. Novelists create a world, populate it with characters, and move them like pieces on a chessboard. We’d love to do the same with our careers: manipulate the industry, allocate advertising dollars, make stores display our books prominently, and ensure that every reader hears about our wonderful stories.

Instead we send off the manuscript and wait and pace and worry, complain to friends, scour articles on how to increase word-of-mouth, and debate whether to increase our personal marketing budget. And our next book doesn’t get written.

JoAnn’s advice to Shirley came at just the right time. She pasted the words above her monitor and repeated that mantra to start each day and remind herself to get to work. Shirley found herself happier doing her job, and more relaxed.

We can’t control if an editor accepts our next proposal or if marketing puts money behind our book. No matter how much time we spend blogging, we can’t control distribution, reviewer comments, or the number of readers who purchase a title. Ninety-nine percent of that process lies out of our hands.

All we control are the words we put on the page. Once our manuscript reaches the editor’s desk, others are in charge.

Today Shirley works hard, but she worries less. She went into this business because she loves to write. And now she concentrates on what she does best.

The author of a dozen titles including What To Do When You’re Scared To Death and Rediscovering Your Happily Ever After, PeggySue Wells writes on a smudged Mac named MacBeth that she totes to her daughters’ barrel racing shows.

Photo credit: © Photoeuphoria | Dreamstime.com


  1. June Delahaye says

    What good advice to encourage a writer !
    I reminds me of the advice I heard a few years ago and have adopted as my mental outlook to help me not to be controlling or to be anxious. It is this: that “I have only one string to play on and that is Attitude, Attitude,Attitude”. :) My goal is: that as i bring my thoughts under the influence of TheLordJesus’ guidelines that, that “one string” will in it’s self make a sound of harmony with Him.

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