Wildfires, conspiracy theories, and viral variants are raging out of control. Not that we ever held power over the universe, but don’t we remember once feeling we had a voice in it?
As the youngest in a smart and strong-willed family, I grew up with no illusion of control. Some friends and family members find me controlling all the same. Like many of us, I’m probably a bundle of contradictions.
Writing and (I suspect) other creative arts abound in contradictions about control. They require not only technical mastery, but also space for unpredictable flow. Fictional characters don’t always follow an author’s orders; they have their own ideas for what to do or say. Try to control too much and the result is formulaic and flat. Too little, and the result is often incoherent.
Either extreme can prevent ever finishing, the over-controller stymied by perfectionism and the under-controller continually distracted. The same may hold in the arts of politics and of everyday life. To hold on and hold loosely is an art in itself.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.