On writing and parenting

I tweeted something I thought was rather profound this morning:

My feelings on writing are a lot like my feelings on parenting: rewarding when good, painful when bad, but oh so worth it!

These last few months have been somewhat challenging with The Boy. He’s been pushing boundaries, as children his age are wont to do, and it can be is taxing. Some days are better than others, but days that don’t include at least one fit or argument are few and far between. He questions just about everything, and he wants things done his way. As a result, there’s a lot of frustration for everyone.

If she was still here, my mother would remind me that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

But when things are great, they’re awesome. This morning, for example, he was practicing guitar and doing a great job of it. His biggest struggle with guitar practice has been counting, and it probably will be for some time. Last week, I made a deal with him that he would play “Jamaica Farewell”, the song he’s working on right now, at least three times a day during practice if I wrote the numbers under each measure.

“Jamaica Farewell” is a tricky song, only in that there are combinations of eighth notes and quarter notes and quarter rests and half notes and ties and flats… It’s not an easy song for a five-year-old who just picked up the guitar about ten months ago. (Okay, it’s not an easy song for a five-year-old. Period.) As such, you have to count. And thank God, he finally got it today.

I’m extremely proud of him, and I’m especially proud that he is persevering. I’ve had to regale him with tales of how he overcame resistance as a younger child and kept trying until he succeeded (the First Steps story is a current favorite) to prove that no one succeeds right out of the gate, and I’ve also had to remind him that I gave him a $300 acoustic guitar for Christmas based on the condition that he agreed to continue playing guitar until he was nine years old. (It was a three-year extension on the initial deal, based on one year for every $100 I spend, which I think is fair. It also gets me out of potentially shelling out $10K for a guitar in the future because he’d have to play guitar for 100 years to pay that off.)

Anyway, that’s a glimpse into part of my parenting life.

My point is that writing isn’t much different for me, only I’m kind of parenting myself. There have been (and will always be) times when I’ve wanted to take everything I’ve written and burn it. (Okay, I’ve actually done that before. But they were journal entries from junior high and high school, and I don’t think those should count.) I’ve gotten really attached to characters but haven’t been able to weave a story about them. I’ve come up with ideas that I haven’t been able to properly flesh out into something coherent. I’ve written pages upon pages upon pages of, well, stuff, only to find that it rambles needlessly and has no real point.

And I’ve wanted threatened to kick my computer or Townshend* my laptop, and I’ve begged myself to please let me take a day off from writing, promising to work doubly hard the next day (and then holding myself to it). And I behave exactly like my five-year-old (Apple? Tree? Not far!) when I get frustrated with the blinking cursor or the meaningless plotless mess before me.

But then it starts to gel. And that’s when I feel all those same emotions that I felt when I first saw The Boy hold up his head on his own or heard him say his first word or watched him take his first steps or realized he could read: pride, joy, excitement, and (I hate to admit it) relief. There’s always that possibility that maybe, just maybe, your child will fail at something. And there’s always that possibility that maybe what you’ve written isn’t worth reading.

But when it clicks – really clicks – and I hear him playing “Jamaica Farewell” in a way that the tune is actually recognizable or when a friend’s daughter demands the next chapter of my WIP because she needs to know what happens next, all of that pain is totally worth it.

Until you have to go through it all over again.

 

Definition of TOWNSHEND: to pulverize something by repeatedly crashing it into the ground; most commonly used in reference to a guitar

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