Writing Delays: What You Can’t Control And The One Thing You Can

Even the most organized writer who puts words on the page and completes their writing to-do list every day runs into delays that drag out the process of penning a book.

Such obstacles can test the biggest optimist, and as much as we’d like to think we’re in control of them, the hard truth is that we aren’t, as the following will show.

Writing Delays: What You Can’t Control And The One Thing You Can

What You Can’t Control…

Working On Your Book During Times Of Stress

You won’t know when it’ll happen, ironically adding to the stress, but things will pop up that can make writing near impossible.

This could be on the one day you don’t have time for it, months on end, or even stretch out years (hello, worldwide pandemic!).

The mental toll of uncertainty is just one way to wipe out all of your creativity, and it will bring your WIP to a halt, even if all you want to do is work on it. You can’t control this, so lean into it. Take the time you need to work through the stress and don’t add to it with the guilt of not working on your words.

Everyone needs a break, and trying to write during immense stress is an occasion when you have the right to opt out.

Do yourself and your work that kind turn and come back when things are dealt with and you’re in the right mental and physical place to give the words your best.

Outside Help

While the idea might be yours alone and the chapters crafted from draft one to draft too many in solitude, at some point, you’ll need outside help. What you can’t control is how much of an advantage or disadvantage that will be.

Beta readers, editors, book formatters, cover designers, proofreaders, ARC readers, agents, or publisher-organized help is not in your control—no matter how much you wish it was.

Writers generally can’t produce a finished manuscript alone, and the other people that you need to rely on have lives and deadlines of their own. Even if they’ve promised to help and have agreed to your timeline, things change.

Some beta readers might not know they can’t finish a read or aren’t a good fit until they get to your MS. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you know straight away so you can try to organize someone else. We’re all human, though, and sometimes betas don’t say that they’ve made no progress until deadlines have been and gone. You can’t control that or what it does to your best-laid plans.

The same goes for the editor/formatter/cover designer/proofreader you wanted not being able to work on your project until 6 months after you’d hoped to book them. Relying on others means meeting their deadlines, not yours, so try to keep that in mind when making your plans, and be prepared to roll with the punches of outside help.

An Uncooperative Muse

Sometimes, that thing you can’t control in writing is you.

When inspiration strikes during writing it is a thing of beauty. When inspiration dries up, there’s nothing more frustrating for someone creative.

No matter what you’ve tried in the past, there will be times when you just can’t get things moving. The urge to write isn’t happening. What you’re writing is crap with a capital C, or the ideas just aren’t coming together. You’re stuck. The delays are on you and you desperately want to control them.

When this happens, all you can do is surrender. Take a time out, give your writer-brain a break, and get inspired again. Read books, watch new shows and movies, journal your thoughts, anything to get those creative juices flowing and your muse (aka you) back on board.

Publishing Factors

Even if you’ve made it to the end stages relatively unscathed, the final version of the book looks great, you’ve set and announced a release date, and the countdown is on, there’s always the chance something will go wrong.

Delays to book materials happen. Technology works against you. If you’re self-publishing and it’s been a while since you’ve put together a book, all the little details you need to take care of come screaming back.

Book categories, book costs, paper options, and cover alignments all have to be thought about and worked out. Then it’s waiting for book info to pop up on the sellers so you can give readers an actual link to buy from.

There are so many things out of your control when relying on third parties that it’s enough to induce a panic attack. But, you work through what you can and (im)patiently wait for everything to fall into place.

When it comes to publishing factors, please don’t waste your time trying to control what you can’t. Set up what you need to, bury the memories until it’s time to do it again next time, and accept that everything will eventually come together, even if you want it to happen right now.

What You Can Control…

Okay, so now you may be feeling like nothing is in your control in regard to writing, but that’s not true. There is one thing, and that is…

Your love of writing.

That’s right! You started writing because you love it.

It’s not for fame, money, or glory, which realistically won’t happen for most of us, but because we love it.

Something about words, stories, and books has always connected with us, and the drive to be the person creating those things is something we can’t ignore.

That is in your control and the one thing you need to remember as you navigate everything else. When things go wrong in the process (which they will!) push through the writing delays and forget what you can’t control and revel in the delight of the one thing you can.

— K.M. Allan

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37 thoughts on “Writing Delays: What You Can’t Control And The One Thing You Can

  1. You said it, Kate! I have experienced all of them, but have learned to build in a time cushion to help take some of the pressure off when things go haywire. There is no endeavor in life that promises a smooth and uninterrupted path to your goal, and we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens to us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes, a time cushion. That’s exactly what I wished I had of known when I went through some of these things. It was a definite lesson I learned this year. Thanks for putting it into the right words, Alexander!


  2. Most of my writing sessions are chalked full of uncertainty, yet somehow I managed to put a few words down before that feeling overwhelms me. My muse usually doesn’t fail me, although there are those times when I come across a great wall I can’t climb or go around, which forces me to take a furlough from the whole writing craft for a while. Sometimes I wonder if my obsession for control is the very thing that makes going forward in a project such a struggle.

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  3. Pingback: 3 Writing Blog Posts You Should Check Out (+Update) - Pro Story Builders

  4. My Boring Ass Canadian Life

    I’ve been trying to knock the rust of my writing gears with limited success, but recently I’ve had a burst of creativity and have started writing again, how long it last is anyones guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. petespringerauthor

    I will no longer ask friends who tell me they want to read my manuscript. It puts them in an awkward position; sometimes, people volunteer and don’t follow through. That leaves a writer in the awkward position of asking a second time to see if they’re actually reading it or are afraid of being critical.

    Working with other writers and those who understand that we want to keep the project moving forward makes far more sense. I can handle constructive criticism fine, but it’s irritating when people don’t follow through with what they promise to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I stopped asking friends years ago because I found the same thing. Usually I go to writer friends and they are pretty reliable because they know you’re on a deadline and what you need/expect, but I have unfortunately also had ones who had never beta read before and didn’t realize it was so involved and just didn’t do the work, but also didn’t tell me until it was too late for me to find someone else. It happens, and it’s frustrating, but the betas who have helped are invaluable.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well said on writing with life stressors. When all is good, sticking to my writing routine is a breeze. But when a life challenge comes a knocking, all my good habits fly out the window. I can’t focus on days like that, and then I feel bad for not writing, and then I fall down this spiral of not writing and hating myself.

    But that’s also a good reminder that I can’t control so many things in life, so I might as well spend all my energy on things that I can. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved this part, “Something about words, stories, and books has always connected with us, and the drive to be the person creating those things is something we can’t ignore.” Thanks for being so inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

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