Visit almost any grocery or super store and you’ll see the tell-tale sign of summer’s end: school supplies. My first response to school supplies is excitement, a subconscious memory of my own school days and the smell of fresh pencils and crayons. My second response--panic: the expense, the hunt for the last obscure things on the list (erasable red pens or ultra-thin multicolored expo markers). But worst of all is crossing paths or shopping carts with helicopter moms.
Helicopter moms with their hovering, controlling and (at Target today) shoving; they are a fearsome, terrible beast. That parent every teacher dreads and other parents flee from. Despite my normal mama-bear instincts and occasional obsession with scary news reports, I’ve actively tried to keep myself from becoming one with my children … but not always my books.
As I think back to my desperate self-promotion and stalker-like behavior toward agents at my first conference, I realize I helicoptered as badly as any obnoxious parent at a PTO meeting or field trip. My insecurity in being a new writer was a big part of this, but a lot of it was due to control. Just like a parent trying force her child to the top of the class, I figured I could muscle my way into writing success by shoving my book under the right people’s noses. I’m sure my desperation was obvious and obnoxious. Flash forward a few years. I’m still hoping for my big writing break, still revising, editing, and creating, but I’ve realized I can’t helicopter my work to success. More than that, I don’t want to.
I was reading a book recently about the spirituality of the desert fathers and mothers of the third and fourth century and was struck by their dedication to apatheia or dispassion. They weren't advocating indifference or apathy but rather submitted their hopes and desires to a place of balance. As a writer it’s easy for me to either be consumed by my work (i.e. helicopter writer) or give up on it. If I picture these two options as extremes on a continuum, I want, like those wise leaders in the desert, to find the point in the middle.
Balance is always hard to find and even more difficult to maintain, but that’s what I’ll be aiming for with my writing in the months to come. I’ll be open to opportunities that come my way and work hard, but I’m not going to force, control and strive. Or at least I'll try my darndest not to.