Ten Ways Writing Is Like Motherhood
*No, I haven’t finished making notes on Elf Blood yet, partly because I’m spending all my free time painting and cleaning a house for sale. I should figure out a way to dictate without a) taking my computer in the way of paint b)not becoming self-conscious and going uh ah uh ah for half an hour. That would make writing covalent with painting and give me free time to edit/make a Bible of the world. Only yeah, not working yet. So, in honor of mother’s day, I’ll give you 10 ways writing is like motherhood*
1- The book starts as the barest of glimmers. Unformed and without precise shape. For me, sometimes it’s just a line of dialogue, or a setting, or a character.
2- Not all of them are wanted and sought. I’ve had books I had to think about and clarify and which I needed to write, or wanted to. And I had books show up in the back of my head saying “Hi, I want you to write me.”
3-No matter how they arrive, they’re going to soak up all your time and energy for a long time.
4-No matter how they arrive, they’ll do their best to become the center of your attention.
5-They will grow when you least expect it, romping out of clothes/plot outline as if it weren’t even there.
6- They’ll get in trouble. For the kids it might mean roaming the neighborhood with your heart in your mouth because there have been reports of a guy tempting kids into a van. For the book it’s those moments you sit there and go “How did I get here, and how do I write myself out.”
7- They’ll disappoint you in some way. No matter how hard you try or how much time you give it, there will be a scene that hits wrong, a plot problem you just can’t change, a stupid decision you have to have your character do or the book will stop.
8 – Even with the disappointing bits, on the whole, on balance, when they’re full grown or written, you are pretty proud of them, and find parts that turned out much better than you could have done it if you tried.
9- You have to let them go. This is true for children and books, (and stories) both and often very hard. Some people (me) joyfully kick them out with a sense of “hurray it’s done” and some people (me at other times) have to let the book go, because when it’s done no matter how you revise/browbeat you can’t improve it. You can only hurt it and stunt it.
10 – Your darling will be hated by some people. Your best hope is that overall more love it/him than hate it/him. But the hate will be there, and once the book or kid is out of your formative care, you have to let it/him fight its/his own battles, as it goes forth into the world to make its own friends and enemies. If you’ve done the best you could chances are, on the whole, it will be more loved than reviled. And sometimes how much it is loved will surprise you, as will its footprint in the world.
And now to those of you who are mothers, and to the ones who are “just” writers, Happy Mother’s Day. Go have some fun.