The other day I was thinking about all the ways parenting can go wrong. I’m not sure why that day in particular, just call it Parental Paranoia: PP for short. So I get hit with the PP, bad, and I start thinking about how hard it is to figure out what’s right to do with your kid’s upbringing, and shit. At this point the mush on one side of my brain overflowed into the mush on the other side and a theory struck me: There are many similarities between writing and raising a non-asshole child.
Think about it, when the idea first strikes you (I’m gonna make a new human/I’ve got a great idea for a story) you’re all about it. You can’t think of a single fucking thing that could go wrong because your idea is so perfect. So, obviously, you commit to the idea.
In the very beginning there is a lot of research and plotting. For example, you have to find out how to convince the stork to stop at your house on its next flyby. That can be a tough one, those ol’ birds are fickle bitches. Then you have all kinds of required reading: What to Expect While You’re Expecting, and, and…other stuff. Internet articles? Youtube videos? Actually, no, that is a terrible idea. STAY AWAY FROM YOUTUBE!
The writer has research to do too. Namely, how to make your novel not suck. That’s the hard one, I think. After that there’s Elements of Style and What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Best-Selling Novel. Okay, that last one’s probably not a real thing. Maybe it should be.
Now that you’ve got your research done and your story/hellspawn brewing you’re riding high. You’ve got this. How hard could it be? Millions of other people have done this very same thing and millions of other people aren’t like you, they’re morons. If a moron can write a book/make a human, you can too. And you’re well-read on the subject. You can tell me about Chekhov’s gun/proper placenta cooking methods.
Then comes the big day, the day the hellspawn bearing fowl drops off its package/the day you get, oh say, five thousand words in to your first draft. This is the first instance of PP for most people, and it usually requires a change of clothing on both fronts. All of the sudden, every. Single. Bit. Of research. Goes right out the fucking window. You officially know not one damn thing about infant raising/wordsmithing.
After days/months/years of PP (it depends on the length of the work/the difficulty of the hellspawn in question) you find a groove. You’ve read all the reading and taken tips from all those other “professional” parents/authors. All of the information has wormed its way in to your brain. At some point you will have the epiphany that every single word they said is BULLSHIT. It is true that some people raise really good children and some people write really good books, but what worked for them will almost certainly not work for you. The world just isn’t made like that. Especially the ‘no yell’ parenting people. Show me someone who says they haven’t flipped their lid on their kids because they were having a shit day and could only take hearing the same question repeated so many times and I’ll show you a liar, probably.
Back on task. You’ve been in your groove for a while and things are good. You’re children/characters are behaving mostly as they should and things seem to fall in to place. This is when things get dicey. Reviewers. You have put all of your palmflesh and vocal cords in to molding the perfect angel/work of art. Now you are forced to send it out to the world and see what other people think. Children get this in the form of teachers and authors get reviewers. There is nothing better than the feeling of being told your angel/art is really fun to be around, but it’s a very scary process either way.
The last part of the process is being finished. Finished? Yeah, it’s some more bullshit. You are never finished parenting/writing. You will always wish you could go back and change something you did in the beginning, but will have to settle with nudging what you have in the right direction and hoping for the best.
In closing, here is a thought on the matter from expert character-wrangler Danielle Shipley:
The similarities grow more starkly apparent when the characters are having toddler-like meltdowns. Character: Why do I have to suffer this plot?!
Author: Because I said so!
Character: YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM!
And then of course the author goes into the whole “I brought you into this world, I can take you right out again!” thing…
Well said, Ship, well said.