10 Ways Writing A Book Is Like Raising A Child

 

This blog post is brought to you from the mind of a writer who has a three-year-old son who won’t go to sleep by himself. As frustrating as it is, his delightful refusal to fall asleep on his own, is entirely my fault. As my fourth and last baby, I have held onto him even tighter. This time, I ignored the advice I had struggled with in the past, I shunned the social norms and expectations and embraced what felt natural. So, he was breastfed to sleep until he was two and three months, and since then, I have cuddled up in bed with him and held him until he falls asleep. So of course, he has absolutely no clue how to drop off on his own. We tried working on it last week and it was horrible. There was crying and shouting and stomping about and general confusion for both of us. Inevitably, I gave in to him and to my heart and got back into bed with him. As I lay there, holding his half snoring, half sobbing body tightly to mine, I suddenly realised that a year from now he will be about to start school. I held him even tighter and as I gazed into his face I could have wept with the useless, torment of knowing this will all one day be over. And then I started thinking about writing books, preparing them and letting them go. I released my latest book The Tree Of Rebelson the 11th August after two years of work. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that writing books and raising kids have quite a few things in common…

  1. They occupy your mind constantly and completely. I sometimes say my mind is like a sieve these days. Utter mush. But in truth, it is just full of children and writing and there is not a lot of room for much else. If I am not thinking of,  worrying about or planning things for my children, then I am consumed with thoughts and fears and ideas of the fictional kind.
  2. You don’t want to let them go. Well, sometimes you do. When they drive you mad, when you’re at a complete loss as to what they need or want. When you’re tired, close to exhaustion, just want to escape, or have completely forgotten why you started this in the first place! But most of the time, letting go is hard. Almost impossible. I just spent two years making sure one book was good enough to meet the world. And as for the kids, I’m never going to be ready for that.
  3. You are always preparing to let go. Though you don’t want to, you know you have to. As a parent, bringing up your child to be a decent human being, is preparation for letting them go. From the moment you first hold them in your arms, you are making decisions that will affect how they turn out. You encourage them to walk and talk and run and climb. You send them to pre-school and teach them how to hold a knife and fork. You do all of these things because you know that one day they will be standing on their own two feet. It’s the same with writing a book. When you first start it feels impossible that it will ever be developed enough to share with anyone. It’s a mountain to climb. Followed by another one. But every draft, every edit, every rewrite, every proofread are all part of letting it go bit by bit.
  4. You know you must work hard for the end result to have a positive impact on the world. You don’t want to raise an arsehole. You don’t want to inflict a spoiled brat on the world. You don’t want to create a selfish, mean or ignorant human. There are already enough of those! Raising decent kids is a lot of hard work. You have to say no a lot, and you have to explain why you are saying no. You have to distract them from the thing you are saying no about. You have to be inventive, creative, spontaneous, organised and heroic. Writing a book is similar. You might not aim to change the world, but surely you don’t want to make the world a worse place?
  5. Inspiration works both ways. My children and our lives together inspire my writing. I write for them and because of them. Our journey takes me outside of myself and later allows me to fully wallow inside of myself. They have made me a better person and I want to be that better person for them. Being a writer also inspires me as a parent and a human. Because I love writing, I am interested in humanity and in the stories that make up a society. I hope this makes me more empathetic as a person, as I try, time after time, to get into the heads of other people.
  6. The work is never really over. You get to the top of the mountain, only to discover another one! The work is never over if you are a writer. There will always be another idea, another plot, another story to be told. The same applies to parenthood. They might fly the nest one day, but you are never going to stop worrying about them.
  7. But once it’s mostly done, you will have more time for the next project. When I go cold at the thought of my littlest one starting school, I remind myself how much more time I will have for other things, once he does. I can remember when my third child started school, I spent months dreading it and welling up at even the thought of it, and then, that summer, I started writing again. I had not written in years. But suddenly it was back and I needed it more than ever. I was suddenly excited. I had something just for me. I had a part of me back again! And the same thing applies to writing a book. You feel so many mixed emotions when you finally publish it, but what allows you to let go is the call of the next project, the next characters and so on. It keeps you excited.
  8. They will always be your baby. Kids grow up fast. They often move away from you before you are ready. Pulling their hand out of yours when they spot their friends. Saying they are too old for bedtime stories. It happens bit by bit. You watch them grow. You prepare to say goodbye. But even when they eventually leave home, just like the books you wrote, they will still be your babies. Forever. Nothing can change that.
  9. They came from inside of you. And I don’t just mean physically, although this is obviously true of both your children and your writing! I mean they were created and developed and matured with your thoughts, feelings, emotions and imagination. What is inside of you as a human, what makes you you, has had an influence on these offspring of yours.
  10. Creating them means you will live forever. Well, sort of. I like to think of it like this anyway. Passing your genes onto your children, as well as some of your experiences, stories, opinions, beliefs, means parts of you live on after you have died. The same could be said of writing books. Your words and therefore, parts of you and who you were, will continue to exist long after you do.

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