This is what my first-born said as he wrote his own Snoopy adventure story a few weeks ago. And in that moment, he summed up artistry in that brilliant, succinct way that only a six-year-old can seem to do.
You see, artists are notorious control freaks. In creating art, there is a space where the creator has complete dominating control over their creation. But that feeling of power while creating, sometimes leads to a feeling of powerlessness when dealing with the real world and its laundry lists of mundane problems.
And that’s where I find myself right now.
There is a stillness that settles over my brain when a book is done. Not that first draft done. That induces a flurry of panicked energy that, quite frankly, I rather enjoy. But when I really know that a book is complete; that all that’s left to do is dot the i’s and cross the t’s and make sure that all those pesky commas are in the correct location, that’s when the Quiet comes.
And for me, the Quiet arrives around the same time as the inevitable let down from the realization that I must start again on a new project. I stand in the Quiet, admiring that giant mountain I’ve just conquered with a sigh of accomplishment and look ahead to see another equally large mountain I must climb. And in this same moment, all the voices in my head – Q’s, Ben’s, Sanger’s, Derek’s – turn on radio silence and I am alone with my own thoughts and feelings without theirs to keep me company.
And it’s lonely.
It’s lonely not to hear Q and the boys sing silly songs so I can hum along with them. It’s lonely not to hear Ben’s big, booming laugh when I see something that would make him smile. It’s lonely not to see Sanger’s shy grin flash at me when I close my eyes. It’s even lonely not hearing what horrible pick-up line Derek will use next.
These voices of mine, they keep me company and it sucks when they’re quiet. And the Quiet hurts. So, I can’t enjoy it.
But it’s a necessary part of the process because sometimes you have to pay the bills. You have to Kosher the kitchen for Passover. You have to make a fucking diorama for a first grader. You have to figure out how to use Instagram and make book trailers for your newly finished book and catch up on your reading. And in between, you have to face that great big scary decision you’ve been pushing aside and do something about it. And you have to take action, otherwise you’ll just sit on the couch paralyzed.
Action is easy when you’re the master of the universe. That’s what my son was getting at. When you write a book, you are the ruler. What you say goes. Not so much in the real world. In the real world, no one has to listen to me or do what I want and that total lack of control sometimes leaves me spinning and scared and alone in the Quiet to which I’m no longer accustomed.
If Derek were speaking to me at the moment, he’d tell me that I’m not really powerless in my real life, no one is. He’d make me say his mantra (which maybe one day he’ll want to share with the rest of you, but not just yet) and then he’d remind me that real change is fucking hard. Real change takes will. Real change takes strength. Real change takes determination. And real change takes resolve.
And that’s the problem I face: Change is coming, both in the world that I create in my books and the one where I actually live my life. The fact that I stand at an astral crossroads where I must do something disagreeable both in the world I control and in the one I do not, is not a coincidence. I think I planned it this way on some level.
In both worlds, it’s for the best. But there’s no way to predict how an action is going to ultimately end up out here in the real world.
And I hate not knowing the ending. As soon as I’m emotionally invested in a book, I read the last chapter before continuing. I’m one of those people.
Don’t look at me like that. I told you 600 words ago I’m a fucking control freak. And if you’ve read just one of my books, you already know I write almost exclusively about people like me: Q’s a control freak, too. So, is Derek. So, is Sanger. Yvie’s worse than all of them combined. But not Ben.
Ben doesn’t need control to feel powerful and it is beyond frustrating. His ability to just let things go. Hell, he even let Q go, once. I’m trying to think what Ben would say, if he was talking to me at the moment. He’s being stubbornly silent, which is why I’ve had to take a break from working on the next Clementine Toledano Mystery. Hard to rewrite a lame-ass first chapter when the character that should be doing most of the talking isn’t talking to you.
But there’s a certain level of powerlessness that even Ben isn’t willing to accept. And maybe that’s who’s been whispering in my ear to take a break from writing and get some real tangible things done in my own life. Q is the dreamer. Ben is the practical one, after all.