Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Controlling Your Controllables

Today’s Brew: Blueberry, duh, but I’m looking at vampire elixirs and concocting a recipe for a Venomtini.

by Kristen

(Pssst…Wanna win a paperback copy of NIGHT MOVES?  Enter here.)

Julie and I spent more than our fair share of time in the retail management trenches.  It was not my dream job by any stretch of the imagination, but I learned so much while doing those jobs (Julie had one, I had many) that applies to the jobs I actually want and helps me be successful. And happy. A lot of times, I’ve wished that I started doing makeup or pursuing writing sooner, but I needed to go through all the things I did before to be able to do both of these jobs the way I do now.

Retail taught us to micromanage. We had break downs of every statistic you can imagine. Not only did we know how much we were selling, we what people were buying in what ratios, and how many people who came in to the store actually left with a purchase. We knew what hours of the day were the busiest, and what employees gave us the biggest bang for their minimum wage buck. We had to be flexible, diplomatic, and innovative, all while playing by someone else’s rules.

Now you know why the Undead Duo drinks.

Once we both said screw your rules, we don’t want to play by them anymore and struck out on our own, a lot of what we were taught at those jobs stuck with us.  At the time, this stuff sounded like corporate speak, but now I realize it makes sense.  Here are my two favorites:

Change doesn’t happen to you, you happen to change.

Not happy with what you’re doing? Your book isn’t coming out the way you want? You aren’t getting an agent? Your book isn’t selling? Your dating life sucks? You’re not losing weight? You need to do something different. Albert Einstein said:

Albert Einstein - Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

 

And for the love of jelly beans, he’s Albert Einstein. He’s kind of smart. If you want something different, you need to do something different. Maybe you change up your routine. Maybe you take a long, hard look at that query. Change up your diet. Maybe you stop hooking up with guys on Tinder and actually go out with that nice guy your sister keeps pushing on you. If you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to get the same results.

Control your controllables. 

There are things we can’t control, ever. What other people think and do, most notably. But you don’t have to concern yourself with their shit. If you’re a writer, you should probably stay the hell away from looking at reviews. Even when they’re good, the anxiety I feel preparing to read them can’t be good for me. Focus on the things you can control, you can change, and make you happy. Because a happy you makes a happy everyone else. If everyone else doesn’t want to be happy, screw them, it’s out of your control.

Learn to say no. This was life changing for me, especially at work. When I was younger, and even more of a grunt than a retail manager, my higher ups were of the belief that I needed them way more than they needed me. So I stuck around, doing things I didn’t want to do, and hating it. But something else happened. I got good at my job. People noticed when I wasn’t around anymore.

Now that I work for myself, I often say I’ve never worked for myself less. With makeup, I rely on the phone to ring, the email or text box to ping. If I’m not available for a day, it’s not like the job can wait. I don’t get it. No sick time, no vacation. Because of that, I’ve missed a lot of personal things. Birthdays, holidays, even just nights out. It takes it’s toll. But the flip side is I get to do what I want for a living, and I don’t have to work forty hours a week, every week, to survive.

Lately, I’ve had to say no to a few things. Even though they were all the right decisions, still, it was hard. It’s not in my nature, as someone who was taught to be a people pleaser, to say no. One was a movie. Five weeks on Nantucket. Five weeks on Nantucket. I wouldn’t have been able to leave. In the time I would have been there, I have NECRWA, RT, and a few makeup commitments, some of them couldn’t be changed. I decided I didn’t want to half ass or miss my writing conferences, since I’ve worked so hard on writing and those conferences are an investment in my future. And I didn’t want to change things for my existing clients, who’d already committed to me. So I turned down the movie. That one was tough. Five weeks of work or my future as an author.

The others were easier, but still tough. A hospital in the city keeps calling me for work, and I keep having to turn them down. I’ve made excuses why I can’t go, but now they’re requesting me specifically. I can’t go. My mom passed away in that hospital. The trap doors of anxiety slam down in my brain just talking about it. There’s no way I can ever set foot in that hospital. So the next time I hear from them, I’m going to tell them the truth instead of just telling them I’m not available. It’s the most fair thing for everyone.

Recently, I had the worst job ever in my almost ten years of doing makeup. Not only did I not hit it off with any of the talent, the work conditions were unsafe. I was scheduled for another day with this company, but I encouraged them to replace me. Mind you, they weren’t exactly sad to see me go, but that reinforced my decision.  Sure, they could have been a big client, but they’re not for me. That’s what I had to realize. Not everything’s a perfect fit. There will be plenty of other clients who are.

You may know about my neighborhood, and that it kind of sucks. I’ve been looking to move, but I haven’t found THE PLACE yet. And I can’t really afford to move and replace a lot of stuff right now. I write in my living room, and do a lot of other things in my living room, like live. I was getting really fucking sick of looking at my living room. I can’t get a new living room, so I controlled my controllables, and I spruced things up a bit.

20140422_081741

A new rug, a new table runner, and I moved a couple things around. For now, it’s just enough to get my brain going in a different way. I love doing stuff around the house, it helps me with my creativity. Added bonus.

Do something different. Don’t be afraid to say no.

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2 thoughts on “Controlling Your Controllables

  1. “If you’re a writer, you should probably stay the hell away from looking at reviews. Even when they’re good, the anxiety I feel preparing to read them can’t be good for me.” – Good advice and something I had to learn (and am still learning) the hard way.

    Also, I always thought that once I had a big house with an amazing office, I’d spend all my time in there. Now I do have a big house, and a really awesome office, and I even have a sunny back patio, but you know what…I still find myself writing at the kitchen table. lol. Old habits die hard. I don’t know why. I think my husband is going to commandeer my office soon and turn it into a games room.

    I bet you’ll always find some comfort in writing on the good ol’ couch. It’s where the magic happens. 😉

    • I do have an office. It’s really cute in there, too. I use it when I do my accounting and things that feel like actual work. Anything creative comes from the couch. I’ll go in my bedroom before I write in the office.

      K

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