When my granddaughter decided to try out for the school volleyball team, she asked her uncle (who has been a volleyball coach) for some tips. He not only gave her some pointers on skills but also on how to approach tryouts.
“You can’t always control where the ball goes,” he said, “but there are two things you can control—your attitude and your effort.
“You can cheer on the other girls. You can listen to what Coach says and do it immediately. You can decide not to get down on yourself if you make a mistake but instead try to do better next time. That’s attitude.
“Also don’t be afraid of the ball. Don’t stand there and let it drop in front of you. Go for it and hit the ball hard—even if it goes out of bounds. If Coach tells you to go someplace, don’t stroll. Run there. That’s effort.
“That’s what Coach will be looking for.”
As I listened, it seemed that was much like writing. We can’t control which publishers will say yes, which readers will write positive reviews, how many copies we’ll sell or how many readers we’ll get. And sometimes we can’t even control how skillfully and effectively we will write.
But we can control our attitude and our effort. We can cheer on fellow writers when they get something published, get a good review, or win an award. We can decide to listen to editors and writers who offer good advice about the craft generally or about our writing in particular. We can decide to not get down on ourselves if we don’t write as well as we’d like. We don’t have to be better than the next person. We just need to try to do better than we did the last time. That’s attitude.
In addition, we can practice hard. We can write thirty minutes every day, even if it is just journaling or only for our own enjoyment. We can stick to blogging regularly even if we don’t have thousands of readers but do it instead for the sake of practicing our craft. We can get good advice on the skills and habits needed to write better. We can keep submitting our work to others for input or for publication. That’s effort.
Spending energy on what we can’t control is like trying to put the wind in a bottle. Focusing on what we can control makes the difference.