- Ann Schwarz
- I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
The Parallel Universes of Parenting and Writing
As I've been doing both I've come to realize that my life as a writer and my life as a parent often run parallel to each other. The journey of creating a novel or story and finding someone to publish said work is very similar to becoming a parent and raising children.
At the beginning of either journey you are swept up by the adventure having a baby or creating a new world or new piece of writing entails. It is a moment that is often euphoric. You love this new creation. You eagerly await the moment it becomes a full fledged reality and the baby is born, or the first draft of your writing is complete. Often, the waiting time for both is exhausting, sometimes frustrating, and near the end you can become right down crabby thinking you will never get to the end of the gestation period. After the labor pains are over you are worn out, but jubilant. You've done it! You have the proof of it in your arms or in some cases typed out on your computer. In either case, you can show people that you've succeeded at giving birth! Hooray for you!
Then the real work sets in. Raising that baby or story up into adulthood. Like most parents come to realize the pregnancy and birth were the easier parts. The caring and raising of children is the most challenging and rewarding role a person can take on. It isn't for the faint of heart, either. As precious as those babies are, they eventually grow up and starting talking and thinking for themselves and that my friends is were the adventure truly lies. I've often heard it said that revising a story is were real writing begins, too. You suddenly realize that your written words you struggled so hard to get out onto the page aren't always as clean and wonderful as you thought. Like messy diapers some of them just stink, and in order for that story to grow up into the best story it can be you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning it up. This process can be as much fun as potty training a toddler or wrestling an overtired youngster into the bath and their PJs so they can go to bed.
Finally, the day arrives when your child begins the process of making they way in the world. For your children this often starts with kindergarten. For the first time they will be in a setting without you where they will be judged and graded on their performance. It's a whole new world from daycare or preschool. Those were only a taste of what school is going to be like. You worry that they will make friends and be treated well by their peers. So too, do you worry about your writing when you have to start sending it out into the world to be critiqued and read by others. Will those other people who haven't known it since its birth like your work. Will they be kind with it. Will they be able to see its unique worth and merit. Or will it come home bruised and red because the other writers or the beta readers found it lacking in some way. Often, just like a child's experience at school there are good moments and there are bad ones. Some days you will go to parent teacher conferences and hear nothing but good things about how your child is doing. Other times you will wonder what you can do to help your child because they are struggling and unhappy in their classroom or school situation. Letting others critique your writing can make you question parts of your work and what to do about it in the same way. Sometimes you'll get your chapter or story back with mostly positive comments about it and sometimes you get it back and it has lines and lines of editorial comments written in the margins. Whole paragraphs might be crossed out that the critiquer/reader didn't like or understand.
But these times though difficult are only the elementary years. Things really get rocky when you enter the teen years. If you are part of a critique group or other writing community of people you know and trust, you also know that they want only the best for you and your work. You are part of a tribe, there to support each other. Then adolescence hits and it is every person for themselves and woe to the one who doesn't fit in or conform to what others expect. Like your teenage child, your story must navigate these murky waters in order to get to be a finished, publishable product. This is the hardest and most excruciating process for you and your writing. You must query strangers and hope they respond positively to that query and ask to see your work. When they do it is a happy dance worthy moment. Just like it is when your teen achieves a longed for spot on a sports team, or gets that solo they auditioned for, or helps their academic team win a meet against a rival school. You get the idea. They come home happy and ebullient and you are proud and happy for them. But this is the part of the parenting or writing journey where you have to develop a thick skin. Because despite how well you and your child have gotten along before, when the teen years come things can turn on a dime. One moment your child can be happy and willing to talk to you like a rational human being and five minutes later they can give you death looks and be completely unresponsive when you ask them a question. This can be the way it is when you start seeking publication for your writing. Some queries will meet with a favorable response while others will meet with no response at all, which if you've done your research into the places you've queried often means NOT INTERESTED. And like your adolescent child one week they may be getting along fine with all their peers and you breath a sigh of relief thinking their middle school and high school journey is going to be much smoother and less painful than yours was then WHAMMO! Suddenly, they've gotten into a fight with their best friend and all the other kids in their class now hate them and you're left picking up the pieces of your child's battered ego. Getting a positive response on a query and being asked to submit your manuscript for review can feel the same way. You think, maybe I'm finally good enough and truly on my way now. Then you get a polite email or letter back from the person who seemed interested saying that they're sorry but they just can't see this being something they could get publishers interested in or in the case of an editor it just wasn't strong enough for them to invest in for publication. In cases like this you are left picking up your own bruised and battered ego and bolstering it back up.
Nevertheless, if you keep at it long enough and work hard enough your child eventually will be grown up and independent. So, too, will your writing if you are tenacious enough. It is what all of us hope to achieve as both parents and as writers. That our children like our written words will at some point be able to have a life all their own and hopefully come to be loved and cherished for who they've grown to become.