Okay. I admit it. I’m one of those parents the teachers hate so much. Why? Because I’m the one dancing in the hallways on the first day of school. Yes! Arms pumping into the air here. I’m the one singing school’s back in session…school’s back forever… (Sung to the beat of that old Alice Cooper song with a little air guitar thrown in for full effect). Well, it may not be for ever, but close enough. No more TV, no more play dates, no more you promised we’d go there dirty looks…school’s back in session!
Last Thursday was the big day for us. Back to school. (Arizona is weird.) And this year, both of my children had the pleasure of attending grade school. Yes. No more daycare, but that’s a whole different topic. My kids’ lower lips began to tremble as we pulled into the school parking lot. The flurry of activity around us heightened the tension in the eerily silent vehicle. Buses, trucks and cars jockeyed into position to unload the unwilling occupants. Strung out teachers and administrators attempted to direct the sea of metal and the long faces on the returning students (and school hasn’t even officially begun yet) into some semblance of order. Then of course there’s me and several other happy parents clogging the main artery in and out of school. And yes, we danced.
You could see the giddiness, hear the laughter, and feel the excitement as we kissed our offspring goodbye before we waved them off in the direction of the classrooms. Okay, I admit, there were a few parents with long expressions, too. Obviously, they haven’t quite obtained the sense of freedom yet of packing little Billy or Susie off on their personal journey through life. But as a parent, and an author, you have to let them go.
So, you ask, what does this have to do with writing? Consider this. When you send that finished manuscript off to an agent, editor, or even your critique group, are you happy or sad? Do you feel the first blush of excitement as you hand over that envelope to the postal employee? Or is your head filled with doubts and you want to hold onto those pages forever, never letting them out of your sight? Are you dancing in the hallway? Or feeling that empty nest syndrome when the characters you’ve spend countless hours, days, or even years with have flown the proverbial coop?
For me, it’s a little of both. I’m happy to strike those six enormous characters at the end of every book. I’m also terrified of the emptiness surrounding me because all those voices in my head are suddenly quiet, like the silence in that short car ride home from school. Where do I go from there? How do I fill the void? While my child or my novel adjusts to life on its own, so must I. How? By taking pleasure in the few moments of freedom. Bask in the relaxing sensation of reading a book for the sheer enjoyment of it. Take a hike or cruise the mall and let the mind wander from the realities of every day life. Get caught up on all the little projects that piled up over the summer.
Or better yet, dance with me. Because sooner rather than later, you’ll hear another tiny voice knocking inside your brain begging to get out. And it sure as heck won’t be sporting a Spongebob back pack and a brand new pair of sneakers.