Focus on What You Can Control | Sara Biren


Marcus Aurelius

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius

Of the topics we could write about this month, the question of what we could change if we could—about the industry, the YA genre, or ourselves as writers—really stuck with me. The timing of this idea couldn’t be better, as I’ve been giving myself time the last couple of weeks to really contemplate my career, my creative process, and where I focus my energy.

The Stoics would tell us to focus on what we can control and ignore the rest—the dichotomy of control. As a person who has chosen the path to traditional publishing, I understand that there are many things about the publishing industry or the YA genre itself that I cannot control and certainly can’t change. Over the years, I’ve grown a thick(er) skin, learned patience, mourned disappointing rejections, and, on the flip side, celebrated some amazing wins. Through it all, I’ve become much better at not worrying about the things that I can’t control or change, and instead, I focus on what is within my control.

As Stoic Marcus Aurelius suggested, I strive to have power over my mind, not outside events. This idea has served me well (even if, occasionally, I still succumb to the worry spiral). I can focus on my craft, work hard to write the best book that I can, focus my energy on events and ideas that will best serve my creative process, and say no to all the rest.

That’s been a big shift for me. I can control where I choose to spend my time and my creative energy. I’ve gotten much better at honoring my energy, trusting my instincts, and saying no to things that will not serve me on this journey. All of this is within my control. The only thing I can change about all the rest is how I perceive it. It's not always easy, but it makes the journey a lot less stressful.

“We must concern ourselves absolutely with the things that are under our control and entrust the things not in our control to the universe.” -Musonius Rufus


  1. This is SO important to remember in the writing world. Focus on what you can control.


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