I’m a writer, nerd, horror addict, and devourer of books (burp!). I’m also a mom and the challenges of parenting have shaped the way I view everything—even writing. That’s not to say my stories are my babies, they’re not, but the thick-skin I’ve developed raising my son has certainly given me a new perspective. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate and if not, let me save you the trouble of housing another person in your body rent-free for nine months by sharing the top six (because top fives are sooo last season) things I’ve learned from parenting that have made me a better writer.
- There will be sleepless nights. Oh yes, there will be: You never know when your next inspiration will hit, but when it does you need to stop what you’re doing and write that shit down. Think of it like a crying baby, stories have no respect for your schedule or even your basic human need to sleep, but you must tend to them. You may get your next idea in a dream or figure out how to fill that plot hole that’s been driving you crazy in the middle of work. If you ignore those flashes of inspiration, you’ll forget them and then when it is time to sit down and write you will be wishing you had written something, anything to help fill that blank page.
- Parents parent, writers write: You can’t call yourself a writer if you aren’t writing. There will be days when you are not feeling inspired, but that novel is not going to write itself so put on your big kid pants and get to work. That’s not to say that you can’t take a day or two off once in a while, (even parents need a break sometimes), but don’t forget about your story or abandon your project. Make a writing schedule for yourself and stick to it.
- Who’s the boss?: Occasionally, my son has trouble listening and it is up to me to remind him of the house rules. The same goes for when your story and characters seem out of control. Rein those plot bunnies in and take charge. Implement some structure. Have an outline in place before you write or go back and organize your story in revision.
- Shit happens: I can’t tell you how many times I have had to ask my son, “is that poop or chocolate?” As I revise my manuscript I ask myself the same thing. I’ve found taking about a month off after I finish my rough draft is the best way to hone my poop detector. Taking a break helps me to view my work more as a reader would. The hardest parts to wipe away are those that I could have sworn were chocolate, but that simply do not work for the story; however, the result of having a novel that is as smooth as a baby’s bottom makes it all worthwhile.
- It takes a village: While writing a rough draft is usually a solitary job, you will need to reach out to others during revision. Have beta readers look over your work. A fresh pair of eyes can catch problem areas you may have missed. Also, ask a fellow writer to edit your work before you submit it. If you don’t know anyone that can help you, seek help online. The blogging community and NaNoWriMo are both great places to start. The best part about community is having people to encourage and support you when you need it most.
- Leaving the nest: You wouldn’t tell your kid to settle on a safety school if they had a shot at Harvard or send your budding artist to law school. The same goes for publishing. Research agents and publishing options to find the best fit for your story and don’t give up until your story has found the right home. The worst thing you can do is hoard your work. Don’t let your fear of rejection or self-doubt hold your story back. That’s like forcing your thirty-year-old child to live with you. We all doubt ourselves from time to time, but once your novel is complete, have faith in it. Cut the apron strings and send that baby out into the world.
Now I want to hear from you! Have I fully lost it or did any of this actually make sense? Leave a comment and let me know what you think and if you have any analogies about writing, I would love to read them.