Creative Process

Writing and Love, it's About Control

By June 27, 2015 19 Comments
Writing Control

I captured this during university in London. Now I realize what was missing.

I was speaking with a friend recently about why people, particularly creative types, become unable to create something they know they’re perfectly capable of creating. I think it’s because when people create something, they’re putting a part of themselves out there, and because the work is an extension of themselves, they often get too invested in it.

In short, we care too much.

I used to think writing perfectionism was all about quality control, but control can really only come from a place of love.

Appropriately, Strapping Young Lad’s song comes to mind, particularly these lines:

Love: the paradox of needing
I know what I stand for: I stand for me
This love, it’s about control

You care about writing so much that you want to control it. Unfortunately, your characters often don’t want to be controlled. Even though you plotted your story, your characters are unpredictable and can end up either disappointing you or exceeding your expectations greatly, and this is neither good nor bad, just the way things are.

In the past week, I felt old habits creep up again. I started caring too much about the Long-Suffering Manuscript, and wanted to control it. Ever feel like you’re about to open Pandora’s Box? That’s where I am, and where I have been multiple times, except this time I’m not going to open it.

I’m taking a break from the work until I know I can approach it as a friend instead of a butcher. This might take a few days. I’ve been getting better at recognizing when I need to take a break, so I’m betting on a week, tops.

It’s time to lose the control but not the love.


Millie’s Note: What’s your take on writing and control?

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • A break is a great idea when one “loves too much”. I always have two or three projects in the works to let the care dissipate and then go back to it as a “friend”:)

    • Millie Ho says:

      That’s good to hear! Back when I was painting a lot, doodling in a sketchbook took the edge off when I was stuck. But I think having two or three actual projects, as opposed to smaller spontaneous activities, might be even better because it demands more of your focus.

  • booguloo says:

    I’ve written over 900 poems and it can be rewarding but sometimes I just walk away because of the self imposed heat and pressure I put on myself. I believe Because of the other things I deal with it might even be harder, but I really have no way to measure it. I’m glad that i’m not alone… –smile–

  • Mark says:

    I’m a perfectionist at heart, though I feel that it is a curse. It makes everything slower because everything needs to be done perfectly. I threw away my control when I wrote my first draft and it felt invigorating. Being able to write without worrying about it being perfect was productive to say the least.
    Trying to edit now and it’s all about control. I’m trying to edit in stages: story-line, character arcs, dialogue, fluffing and grammar. It’s hard not to try and do it all at once but I need the control to help me through this editing process.
    I’d say lose control on the first draft only, but then control your editing process, seems to be working for me so far.

  • kvennarad says:

    My relationship with a manuscript – if ‘The Deptford Bear’ is anything to go by – is more like that of an absentee lover, out on a binge. I’ll come home eventually, God knows when, smelling of someone else, and be alternately violent and maudlin.

    • Millie Ho says:

      The way you write is very fluid and adaptable, like water. I’m still in the process of figuring out a definitive description of my relationship with a manuscript. Hopefully I’ll have something solid once I finish this one!

  • aetherhouse says:

    My name is Michelle and I’m a perfectionist *raises hand* It’s like killing a hydra – chop off one problematic head, and then two new ones grow back. However, I just can’t convince myself that “letting it go” is a good thing yet, when such errors are glaring to me. I love CinemaSins, so I accept that everything has clichés and sins and it’s okay so long as the work itself is good enough for the audience to handwave them. I don’t feel like I’m at that point yet – the sins are still very large! As Mark said, I’m great at losing control on the first draft, but then when I’m in the mindset of “I need to get someone to pay money for this,” I really *have* to be a perfectionist. I’d hate to lose out because I was too lazy or blasé to fix errors I knew were there.

    As far as becoming unable to create something we know we’re perfectly capable of creating…in my experience, I pause on projects because I feel like I’m not ready for them yet. I just don’t have the skillset for them, I haven’t read enough similar books to figure out how to tell such a story, etc. Or, my idea just hasn’t cooked long enough. I’m not sure the point I’m trying to make, or why telling the story matters.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Welcome to the club! Actually, it might work out better in the end if we didn’t start books or projects we know we won’t be able to tackle/complete due to a lack of skill set. The main challenge, based on what I’ve experienced, is recognizing when you should back off vs. when you should keep going. Being a perfectionist can definitely muddle our instincts when it comes to this, which is probably why failing consistently is a good teacher in hindsight. It’s a tough on-going process, but with enough practice, the knife gets sharper and the purpose of the story gets stronger.

  • Rose Red says:

    ‘a friend instead of a butcher’ haha, good stuff

  • booguloo says:

    I’d be willing to bet that one of your characters is more like yourself than others are. If Im wrong just let this go. Going against how you would resolve any conflict goes against your your character’s solution probably throws you. I find it happens to me even though I wrote shorts for practice. Am I close?

    • Millie Ho says:

      You’re right, one of my characters is more like myself. Then again, do you find that when you write, figments of yourself subconsciously make their way into all your characters? How they solve conflicts probably reflect how parts of yourself (especially the hidden parts) would go about it.

      • booguloo says:

        Yes I see it after it’s written.. but I try to imagine my characters as people and friends I know. Although it can be harder there’s more meat on the bone. I played around when I first started the blog but became bored and antsy. Poetry works better, but even now I’m getting bored and antsy… What’s the real bummer it’s harder maintaining interest in doing my crossword puzzles.

  • booguloo says:

    Boy do I feel strange.. just now read this..

  • dekutree41 says:

    The best part about taking a break is that your subconscious takes over and keeps writing the book for you while you’re away. It’s like Lyra trying to deciper the Golden Compass…take a step back and stop trying so hard, and see what slips out around the edges of your consciousness.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Yup, like those “aha!” moments that can only come from the edges of your consciousness than through active planning. Love your Lyra reference! Her attempts at reading the Golden Compass does sound like an allegory for the writing process.

  • dekutree41 says:

    PS If you haven’t already done so, you should go see INSIDE OUT. It’s inspiring in so many ways.

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