I had one of those weird realizations today. As the mother or eight children ages 4 to 24 with only the 19 year old daughter across the country, married, expecting, I realized that writing is like parenting. When I first finished my novel, the first draft anyway, I was so proud of my little bundle of words. I wanted to show it to everyone with acclamations of “Look. Isn’t it wonderful? It’s mine you know. I made it all by myself.”
But then the gentle but ever so unkind comments came, “You need an editor”, “I didn’t understand what you were saying when…”, “I think you need to…”, or (my personal favorite), “Bonnie, I want you to join my writing group. You need to develop your writing more.” Gadzooks! What wasn’t there to love? It was like hearing those snide comments of “She has big ears”, or “Does his head look a little pointy?” How could they not love my little bundle of words?
And so, the days of revising, and editing, every word being torn apart by scrutinizing eyes, came. It was like those many days when one of my daughter would come home in tears because her best-best friend was now best friends with the girl who is so mean to my daughter, or when my son would come home with a C on the paper we spent hours writing (heavy on that I in we). And yet, somehow, the children came out stronger, wiser, more confident, and so did the chapters.
Fast forward to post high school graduation when there was a failure to launch or two, when young adults hung out on my couch all day doing little household chores like they did when they were thirteen–no college, no jobs. And there my husband and I were trying to figure out what had happened? Why had they been rejected? What more could we have done?
And there was my little novel. Sitting on the couch after getting our hopes up with a first round win in a contest and down after a second round failure. Rejected. How many times had I told my young adult sons, “I don’t care what job you get. Just get one,” ? And here I was looking at my novel saying, “I don’t care if I have to self-publish you. I just need to put my effort into the next little bundle of words. I’m tired of revising you just to please the world.”
And then I realized, what does it matter if a single word I ever write pleases another person? Do I breath for another? Do I eat for another? Well, only when I was pregnant. I write for me, because it pleases me, because I love it. Yes, I want my children to enjoy the pleasure of carving out their own little spot in this grand universe. I want them to feel the triumph of failing and simply dragging themselves off the floor, even it is only to take the next blow. I want them to be able to go to work and feel the same excitement they did as when we went to the big park. But they are mine. And even if the world rejects them. I get to enjoy them. And so, writing is like parenting.