When do I pull the trigger?
Ok, what was your initial reaction to that question?
If you are a thriller writer, you might be considering when a character should commit a dastardly deed. If you are a hunter, you might be wondering the appropriate time to squeeze off a shot at your furry quarry.
In truth, the question may address a number of scenarios, one of which is trying to figure out when something is done, when it might be time to move on. This is not quite as simple a consideration when your personality tends toward perfectionism, and, if that is the case, well, control issues are likely to creep in.
As a writer I often struggle with how many drafts to write. How many sub-drafts. Mega-drafts. The truth is, with as many drafts as I deal with, I have considered adding insulation to my writing space. On the serious side, however, there is always a point at which I need to let go. Let it go. Set it free.
Most people are familiar with the paradox of control. Being in control is inescapable. But it is the approach to the control that is the key. One approach is to attempt to control the myriad of details that flood our daily lives. Controlling as many variables as possible is an attempt to manage anxiety. And for the brief period of time that we may able to do so, we are perfect. But....
How many balls can you juggle at one time before things go badly awry? I can juggle one ball with little difficulty on most days. Some days I can do two. The times I have attempted to juggle three balls I have tempted both fate and potential head injury. Multitasking doesn't mean that an adequate job is being performed with each task. This approach, then, may work over a short term, but in the long term it is problematic.
Another approach is to let go of control. Perhaps adopting a Zen attitude. We do our best and whatever happens, happens. What is extremely interesting to me about letting go of control is the paradox mentioned earlier. If you are letting go of control, aren't you, after all, in control of letting go of control, thereby never really "losing" control?
But the difference in the attitude or approach feels different psychologically. It reminds me of exposure treatment of chronic worry. When someone is consumed with worry, there is a very hopeless sense of being pounded by the worry in relentless flurries of attacks. The worrier feels that he or she has no control over the worry. It is a very difficult thought process to manage.
However, if worry is assigned as homework, the feelings shift dramatically. Try setting aside a half hour each night and dedicate yourself to worry. Prior to the worry time, put off the worry. Postpone it until the designated worry time. But when that time comes, worry, deliberately, about all the normal worries and even add some on to them. Worry about world peace. Worry about whirled peas. Worry about the cost of filling your gas tank. Anything you can think of. And...can you do it for a half hour? My experience has been that most people can't. After ten minutes of forced worry, the thoughts and fears are like balloons that are devoid of air. Directing or controlling the worry saps it of its energy.
Send out the short story to the contest. Write "THE END" on the novel. Put your taxes in the mail. Send the important email message you have been meaning to release into the virtual knowledge exchange. Go on, pull the trigger. Take a breath, and then see what your next task might be.