Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Confessions of a Control Freak

Hi everyone. My name is Marnee and I’m a control freak.

Hello Marnee.

Maybe it’s my zodiac sign (Virgo) or maybe it was growing up with an alcoholic who made things unpredictable at home. Dunno, but in my adult, real life, I need order.  I schedule.  I’m a lover of routine, a seeker of calm. I make grocery lists and I clean certain things on certain days. I keep spreadsheets, I use Microsoft Money to budget and balance my checkbook. I streamline and simplify. When I accomplish something in the most efficient way, I feel like the KING OF THE WORLD. *Insert Leonardo DiCaprio on the helm of the Titanic, the soundtrack swelling in the background*

It’s helped with parenting too.  Oh, my kids play. They can run and explore and build and destroy to their hearts content… between regular meals, regular personal hygiene, and very regular sleeping schedules.

It’s how I manage my life and the lives of the three guys counting on me.  (Okay, 2.5 guys. The hubs is super self-sufficient. But, I’m the CEO of my household and my management reigns here. He’s cool with that, though. I’m not a dictator—okay, not usually—and he doesn’t want this job anyway.)  

That’s why, when it comes to just letting things go and writing organically, I feel equal parts freed and terrified. The story has surprised me a few times with the directions it’s gone. It’s exciting to watch it unfold before me. Exciting like a motorcycle ride.  As in, “this is awesome, this is awesome, but oh god, we’re gonna die!”

In the past, I’ve planned the hell out of my stories.  I planned them to within an inch of their lives.  But, it hasn’t worked. Stories aren’t like grocery lists, check off the ingredients and complete the task.  Instead, they’re like my little boys. They need structure but they don’t need me micromanaging the shit out of them. 

Right now, I’m watching my story the same way I watch my kids play. I say, all right, characters, at some point, I need X event to happen. Until then, I’ll follow you, as long as we get to X at some point. They haven’t let me down yet. 

So for now, I’m just standing over here, off to the side, waiting to rein them in if they get a little crazy. Like want to jump off the top of the monkey bars. 

Anyone else have difficulty just letting the story take you?  Anyone else a compulsive list writer or habitual cleaner?  Do you think control freak is a positive or negative thing?


Maureen said...

I am your opposite image. When I try to control things, it comes off as artificial, but when I let it run wild it can be total anarchy. But, oh hell, anarchy is a hell of a lot of fun!

As long as I can find my greater theme in the midst of all the 'play' - I'm good with it.

Planning...ah, planning just dares the chaos to rebel and all the creativity will just flit away. Which sounds like an oxymoron, but there is a deep current running beneath everything in what I write. I need everyone to stay on board. If they abandon ship because I'm playing the captain with a plan, spreadsheet, schedule...I get nothing.

That said, I'm thinking of taking a three month course on writing... Since most of what I've set myself up for the next few years is editing. I don't want to forget to write.

Marnee Bailey said...

LOL! You know, Mo, if the universe had tried, I'm not sure they could have put two more different artists on this pirate ship. I think it's one of the reasons I adore you. I watch how you work with wonder. I would never be able to do as you do. The two of us are a study in how art and creation can happen with lots of artistic processes.

I can understand, though. I feel like I need a balance. My personality trends me toward massive planning, but I know there has to be some slack there. I know I have to let them go and do their things. I just have to find that sweet spot between planning and chaos that works for me.

GOod luck with your writing course. That sounds like fun. Where is it through?

MsHellion said...

That's the way I like to write! "Okay, guys, I believe I need X to happen...so however that happens, you go to town..." and I follow along. Sometimes my X turns out to be a Y or a Z, but I see from what they were doing that Y or Z is actually better for the story, so it's okay.

I like making lists so I can cross things off them. But it's because I'm an avid procrastinator and if I lay on the couch and think about ALL the things that need to be done, I get tired and take a nap. If I write them all down, I can start by doing the smallest one, crossing it off, then I feel like it might work out and I keep going.

I imagine you can make that happen in writing too, having a list. Here are the list of things that I believe every good book should have. And then find the one that seems doable that day and work on it and cross it off...

Terri Osburn said...

I've been called a control freak many times. I think it's been meant as a negative, but when someone needs shit done, guess who they come to? I am a control freak, but only to a point. I know people who make me seem like the least controlling person ever. Work with one of these. Makes me feel better about the whole thing.

I make lists and then forget them, but I guess the storyboard is a type of list. Must have that. What changed for me is when I decided to trust the characters to know what they're doing. Which I think is what you're talking about here. "This is where we're going, I trust you to take the wheel and get us there."

Unfortunately, right now, my characters are not only refusing to drive, they won't even get in the damn car. I did start over last night and feel good about these first 1K words. Might need to add a little spice, but this is much better.

Janga said...

I'm a classic INFP: "INFPs typically rely on intuition and are more focused on the big picture rather than the nitty-gritty details. They can be quite meticulous about things they really care about or projects they are working on, but tend to ignore mundane or boring details."

What this means in terms of my writing is that I can spend hours writing biographies for my characters, searching for pictures of the houses they live in and the clothes they wear, constructing a timeline that goes back three or four generations, and drawing a map of the town in which they live, but I break into hives at the thought of an outline or a synopsis--and I have major problems writing a final, unqualified "The End." I never write linearly. It also means I might have three or four different projects going at the same time since I have a low threshold of boredom.

I can also quite easily ignore the dust collecting on various surfaces, and tasks such as vacuuming and laundry are done on a must-do basis rather than by a schedule. My sister (an ISTJ) is more like you, Marn. She is super-organized and has a plan and/or schedule for everything from her freelance projects to her TV viewing. We have worked together on a number of writing projects,including one reference work on women in America which she edited and for which I wrote three chapters. We drive each other insane because our work styles are so different.

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells - I imagine you can make that happen in writing too, having a list. Here are the list of things that I believe every good book should have. And then find the one that seems doable that day and work on it and cross it off...

Are you TRYING to give me more lists here?! I just said, no more lists in my writing!


Seriously though, I find myself much more in control during revisions. I can be systematic and it benefits the story. I think that's the time for lists and organization. But the story, the rough draft and the big picture? That stuff needs a more abstract and random touch.

Ter - I've been called a control freak before too. Like you, when people need something done, they give me a ring. And I constantly hear, how do you do all that? Honestly, I don't know. But the closest I can answer is, "One task at a time." :)

Marnee Bailey said...

Janga - I took that test before. I forget what I am though. I think I'll have to take it again, just because I'm curious. :)

I do one thing: writing out of order makes me break out in hives. I've done it before, passed a scene that I just wasn't ready to write. But it'll nag at me so much, as if I cleaned the whole bathroom and left the toilet dirty. LOL!! Again, I always think it's interesting how different we all work. :)

MsHellion said...

I agree--the Muse should get the free reign on the first draft. Even if you feel she's on crack. Making sense of it is the writer's job, once the Muse is done.

Maureen said...

I haven't decided if I'll take the class. It's with WritersonLine. Taught by Mary O'Gara, using a Twyla Tharp book. Which is one of the reasons I thought it sounded a bit interesting. Twyla Tharp?

It would be a bit of a commitment, but I have the time between editing jobs...

I have done some planning, but I swear, I honestly have to hide it from the crew or they will jump ship! My creativity just mutinies if I plan too much.

I remember taking that test, Janga. Fascinating. I only remember two things. I am introvert who isn't shy. Which is different. My husband is an extrovert who is shy... Don't remember the letter they used to discuss the concept of shyness...

Janga said...

There's major, widespread misunderstanding about the introvert-extrovert identity, Maureen. It has nothing to do with shyness. Introverts are energized by their inner world, extroverts by the outer world. It makes sense that many writers are introverts who live vividly in the worlds they create. It went against common wisdom, but the college freshmen who were most homesick were the extroverts. The introverts brought the source of their energy with them. The extroverts had to adapt to a completely new outer world.

Marnee Bailey said...

Janga, what a cool explanation. I remember that I was introverted, but I"m not shy at all. The test administrator explained that it was because introverts basically energize internally and that extroverts energize outside themselves. I love people and the world, but I find I need time alone when I recharge.


Janga said...

Marnee, I'm a believer in the Myers-Briggs personality types. They just explain so much about human behavior to me. The first time I heard them explained the speaker illustrated the difference between Feeling and Thinking reactions by saying suppose you have just bought your dream car and you're driving it home when another driver runs a stop sign and slams into you. You are not injured. The Dominant T, focusing on logic, will be immediately concerned about responsibility, calls to law enforcement, insurance, etc. The dominant F, focusing on people, will first want to make sure everyone is safe, that other motorists aren't endangered, etc. It's not that the Ts don't care about people being hurt or that Fs won't check insurance data, but the initial reaction will be determined by the individual's basic preference. It makes sense to me.

I think a lot of conflict in relationships of all kinds is caused by differences in Js who want decisions made and clear closure and Ps who delay decisions because they keep taking in new information.

I find it really useful to assign Myers-Briggs types to my characters. Clearly this is a soap-box subject for me. LOL I'll shut up now.

Maureen said...

I'm sure I used the word shy when it wasn't the specific trait mentioned. I believe it was just my interpretation of one of the result. But it makes sense, the specific read.

Marnee Bailey said...

So, I just took the test again (finally had a second to sit down). LOL!!

It says that I'm ENFJ. Slight E, moderate N, slight F, intense J.

I think I remember scoring INFJ when I took this nearly 8 years ago (before I started teaching). As I was reading the descriptions, that Protector explanation all sounded familiar. But the Giver one explains pretty good too. :)

But I knew for sure about the J. :)