Creative parenthood

Over the years I’ve realized that writing a novel is, in many ways, much like raising a child. A child you can safely ignore for years at a time, but a child nonetheless.

I nurture an idea, a setting, a world. I name characters (an often agonizing process that will be the subject of a future post!) and then watch them grow, develop, interact with others, and frequently make decisions I hadn’t expected. Just last night I finally put words on the screen to represent a scene that had been in my head for weeks, yet one of the major characters involved had a completely different reaction than the one I’d envisioned. Reading it again today, I realized that reaction was the right one, the one most in character. I created that character; why isn’t she behaving like I thought she would? Because I’m getting to know her better with each and every sentence I write. Don’t kids surprise their parents and other adults in their lives in a similar way?

I’m physically and mentally exhausted after completing the first draft of a novel. I still recall with perfect clarity that feeling of leaning back in my chair after hitting the “save” button. I stared at the ceiling as adrenaline left my body in a rush, leaving me limp yet giddy. I grabbed my phone and texted a few friends, likely spelling things wrong or accepting the wrong auto-corrected word in all my excitement (I hate making typos). It’s like giving birth, albeit to a far lesser degree.

I’m proud of my writing, and I want others to share in that pride. I’m not sure what the equivalent of a picture of a daughter at soccer practice or a son performing at a recital would be for a novel, but I still have the desire to post the little things documenting a book’s progress. Perhaps tweets like “Today I killed off a character!” or “I finally figured out why [character’s name] hates snakes!” would come close.

I must end with the caveat that I’m not a mother. I do know many mothers (and fathers) and have the utmost respect for the decisions they make and the efforts they exert on behalf of their child or children. I understand that writing is far different from actually shepherding another human being from infanthood to adulthood. However, I still pour myself into my writing and discover more about myself and those around me in the process. After all, the best kind of story, whether one I create or one from the mind of another, is one that inspires me to become a better person, and children often do the same for those around them.

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