Friday, February 4, 2011

Raising a book

I was a stay at home mom when my daughters were young. Not only was it a privilege and luxury, I considered it my career at that time and undertook the task with the same determination and care I would have given the job of CEO of Ford. But raising children is a vocation closer to entrepreneur of a start-up than a suited-executive of an established accounting firm. Every day was full of uncertainty and fraught with a Murphy’s Law of disasters from spilled juice on a white carpet to a fever and trip to the emergency room, to a shopping excursion gone too long ending in a tantrum in the grocery store. All to the tune of underlying angst that if I was too firm or too soft I’d ruin the child.

And yet, while I was in the middle of this precious duty, most days felt like treading water. Progress was slow, with frequent setbacks. There were so many nights I crawled into bed, exhausted, and tried to tally my accomplishments. In a “real” job, there are quotas, sales, profits, and product. In the mommy business, there were toys put away that would soon be scattered again. Meals prepared and eaten and forgotten and prepared and eaten and forgotten again. Every day seemed pretty much like the one before it and I could look forward to tomorrow being pretty much the same.

And yet, most days had a sprinkling of indescribable joy. Random moments of pure delight made up for the endless toddler questions and repeated nursery rhymes. A two-year old’s hug and whispered, “I love you, mommy,” can erase years of dirty diapers and discipline. Truly, there is no memory sweeter than stories read at bedtime.

Today, two young women are making their mark on the world. They are bright and funny and courageous. I won’t take credit for the amazing women they are but I have the unique privilege of sharing their earliest existence in this world, helping them grow day by day. I am overwhelmed with the wonderful people they’ve become.

And so is the writing life. Every day I can look forward to doing pretty much what I did yesterday and what I’ll do tomorrow. I will suffer and worry that whatever I’m writing will be just the wrong thing. Bit by bit, my book will grow, whether I see real progress or not. And there are those moments of pure joy, when the perfect idea springs into my head, or I write something so funny I laugh out loud.

One day, amazingly, I’ll have another completed book. Maybe it will go into the world and achieve great success. And if it does, wow, I’ll be happy. The only control I have over that hopeful outcome is to do the best job I can do today, to keep putting the words down and letting the book develop. When I get bogged down in the tedium of the work, I’ll think of two giggling girls playing dress-up in a room strewn with toys I’d just put away and remind myself that the trail to success can seem long and hard sometimes but there is always the chance of delight around the next bend. In the end, it’s all worth it.


What about you? Where do you get inspiration when writing feels like slogging through mud?


  1. Joy, satisfaction, angst, anger, frustration, writing emits and creates so many emotions. The slogging part is tougher on some days than others, and it's easy to make excuses, to find something else to do.

    "The End" is achieved through tenacity, and for me, with support. Only another writer knows what I'm talking about when I vent, and can sympathize and advise. With such a solitary profession, "our team - the SOTQ" is invaluable and cherished.

    Then there's also the requisite stubborn streak a mile and a half wide, coupled with daydreams, as the world I'm trying to create comes into view...

  2. Yes...writing a book and raising a child, a day feels like a month as you live it, and a year feels like a minute in retrospect. When it comes to writing books, though...I'm all for spanking, putting in the corner, kneeling on the cornmeal, setting hair on know typical punishments. When it comes to the comparison of writing books and food, I prepare and eat and throw up and eat again - sometimes what I've just thrown up (sorry about that dear reader). And my books never say, I love you mommy. Wish they did! I have to settle for one way love. Inkpot

  3. Inkpot,
    The "I love you" came in the form of all those awards hanging on your wall. I love the idea that rewrites are like meals prepared and eaten. I hadn't done that on purpose but it does seem apt, if a little gross, in your response. Thanks.

  4. Like Janet said, there's a stubborn streak. A very stubborn streak, indeed, pure, unadulterated will power....but I also try to focus on the idea of the story itself. The utter "coolness" of it and the idea of bringing that coolness to the page--and others. A writer can always dream....

  5. Hi Frank.
    It's not that a writer CAN always dream, it's more like a writer DOES always dream. Sometimes it makes people around us think we're crazy. They may be right.