Sunday, September 27, 2009

Parenting: How It's Helped Me Become a Better Writer

What, you say? How on Earth could juggling two girls, one in which reins as Queen of All the Drama (to the 'enth degree) and the other who I've appropriately named Mischievous Billy Goat due to her strange taste for electrical cords, paper, and just about anything else that she can get into her mouth . . . make me a better writer?

Well, read and learn, as I try and pass on my awesome motherly wisdom *coughcough*.

Patience: I will confess, this is by far my biggest flaw as a mother. But a flaw I constantly stay aware of and try to better myself at. I'm rushing out the door and Drama Queen insists on zipping her jacket on her own. I grit my teeth and push my impatience to the side. Then, she insists on buckling herself in her booster. I grip the steering wheel, watching as the seconds tick by on the clock. But, as the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait."

It really is true. At least, I want to believe so. Making myself understand, and then later on witnessing, that each moment I control my impatience, I'm giving her a moment to become a better, secure, independent person...which, uh, is a good thing! As with writing, I've learned you can't rush through a manuscript and expect it to be perfect, just like you can't rush through getting your kids out the door in time without it resulting in a meltdown, forgetting something, or making the rest of your day miserable. As well, in the querying process, you can't expect your manuscript to snag the first however-many agents you query on the first, second, sometimes even third round. (though, yes, it has happened to others, I must tell myself I am no exception)

Persistence: This is where I thought of this blog. My teething 8 month old, Mischievous Billy Goat, has not slept well all day. Two thirty minute naps, and that's it. So when she wakes up 30 minutes after we put her down for bedtime, screaming bloody murder, thrashing in my arms as I try to console her, pushing the bottle away, and generally the angriest baby on the planet, I hold onto my sanity and patience, rock her no matter how much she fights it, hum a song, and stay persistent in calming her down even if it seems it may never happen. Ten minutes later (which feels like an hour) she's asleep.

As with parenting, writing is no different. First, it's getting the book written. You hit bumps and dips and pot holes, but if you stay persistent you'll get through it. Same with revisions, and especially so in querying for a literary agent. If a writer doesn't have persistence, I don't think they'd ever make it in the business. You've got to keep trying, no matter what, even if it means trying different things to get the results you want.

Positive Attitude: My new motto in life is no matter how crappy things seem to be getting, try to find the positive part of the situation. As an example, on our flight to Vegas for our anniversary, we didn't arrive at the airport in time to check our luggage, so it had to be checked on with a different flight that was schedule to arrive an hour and a half after us. I kept it together, saying things could've been worse. Then, the pilots didn't show up so we were sitting on the plane for a while before they realized it'd be a good idea to get off the plane until someone showed up to fly us. No problem, I told myself. Better than, you know, having the plane explode or something.

And then the tides turned. We got meal vouchers for a free lunch plus, it turned out that our plane would arrive the same time our luggage would with the other flight. It worked out. I knew then this positive motto thing had to be something worth practicing. (Ok, so this wasn't a parenting story, I'm sure I have one but this came to mind first).

Same with writing. It's easy to get discouraged, especially if you're part of a critique group. I am, and while I have absolutely fabulous readers that are honest and helpful, sometimes I get down and start to think "Crap, I can't do anything right!" It's been a long time since I've felt that way (a few months anyway) and it's really helped my productivity and motivation with new projects.

You Can't Rely on Someone Else to Do What You Envision: I'm sure there's a better title for this, but simply put (sort of, I'm not good making things short and simple) As a mom, I can't expect my friends, my family, or even my number one partner in life to do the job the way I see it. I've learned over the last 4 1/2 years if you want to have things done the way you want, you have to do it yourself. While help is always great, I can't expect my mother-in-law to know the routine my baby enjoys and stick to it, or to know exactly what to say to Drama Queen when she stubs her toe to make her stop screaming like the world has ended.

With writing, while beta readers and critique partners help me immensely, just as family and friends and awesome spousal unit at home with my girls, it's ultimately up to me to get the result I envision. You can't rely on others to make your writing shine, it's totally up to you. And, you can't take every suggestion in the world either, you have to know what's right for your story and leave suggestions that won't work out to dry (of course, you don't have to mention you didn't use it -- and always be thankful of the help!)

Okay, I'm sure there's more, but I made this long enough as it is. Being a mom has really helped me with my writing career, and though my girls may drive me nuts at least one time out of the day almost every other day, they're totally worth it. I can't wait to see how I did on them, when they get older and I get to see what wonderful women they turn out to be (yes, I'm probably a little too confident in my mothering skills), just as I can't wait to see how one day (soon) I'll see my book in print.


  1. Bloody excellent post, you! I love it! (And am linking to it.) I'm sure at a very upcoming point, I'm gonna need this info!

    Big hug!

  2. So glad you guys liked it! Bug hug right back, Jen!

  3. Very well thought out post! I remember thinking how good my mothering was too (lol) and thinking I knew my daughter so well...could exactly picture her as an adult. Then she became a teenager and showed me exactly how much I did not know. And this helped me in my writing as well. Patience, faith, and deep breathing exercises... oh and not to mention she gave me fodder for a great major teen character in my book. That smart mouth had to work to my advantage somewhere!! LOL

    When you get a chance, come give me a diner name idea...I'm taking names!!

  4. Great post. The title really says it all. And it's amazing how much we have in common. I, too, am a stay-at-home mom, mother of two, writer of young adult (mostly) fantasy--and my name is Krista:)


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