Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Raising Babies and Writing Books Have in Common



When I got pregnant with my first daughter one of the first things that I did (after freaking out, weeping for joy, and telling the news to anyone who'd listen) was go out to the book store to get books on pregnancy and baby care. I was a teacher and before that a babysitter, but I'd never had my own child to take care of and I wanted to be epically good at it. Great, even. So I got WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE YOU'RE EXPECTING and THE BABY WHISPERER and so many other books that it would take me two blog posts to list them all. I read every single one. I became an expert in all things baby. I could quote from most of them...and did to both my mother and mother in law with a subtly smug look on my face that basically said, that's right ladies, I GOT THIS. But then the day came and my daughter made her debut into the world and I realized almost within the first hour that despite all of my research I wasn't completely prepared for her--heck who am I kidding--I was BLINDSIDED by her. You see my daughter has always been on the stubborn, energetic--I'm not gonna sleep and I'm gonna try biting and I'm gonna challenge you in every way possible in every situation possible--kind of kid. She once spent four hours in time out sitting on the floor in my bedroom with nothing to entertain herself (I'm not kidding. Four hours.) on Easter because she wouldn't apologize for smacking me in the face...when she was three years old. Not once did she shed a tear. Her dad and I spent many an anxious evening wringing our hands, sure that by the time she turned thirteen we'd all be on the Montel Williams show. I tried every single method I'd read about. You'd think based on all of the glowing accolades these books had that at least one would be our parenting Holy Grail, but instead most methods, followed to the letter didn't work for us. Only after I began cobbling together my own plan based on several of the books' suggested plans (and mixed it with some creativity on my part based on what I knew about my child and the way her mind worked) did I start to feel like things were coming together for me as a parent. It wasn't that the experts were wrong, it's just that every child is different and so no one plan is a panacea for all. It took me forever to get that. But by the time baby two arrived I had and my experience while still challenging was less anxious. I understood that there was no pat way to raise this little person. The best way would be completely unique to her.

Now fast forward a few years to when I began my writing career. Once again I gobbled up every available book or blog post on writing and craft and how to write a rough draft. I thought that somehow if I wrote exactly the way other published writers wrote I would ensure my own success. I tried drafting fast and dirty then drafting slow and careful. I tried setting a word count each day and logging it on an excel spreadsheet and forcing myself to make my quota. But what I found is that like parenting, no other writer's exact method for writing a novel worked for me. In fact I found that like with my children each book I've worked on has had it's own creative course to follow. Some of my stories come out quick and then take ages to revise. Others are a struggle from word one. The only thing that has really stayed consistent for me through all of them is that I make the time to write no matter what and I push through the discomfort of not knowing exactly how to get the current book to come out on the page right. Now when I read advice on writing I know that it's okay not to follow it the letter. It's okay if it doesn't work for me at all. My writing method will be unique to me and that's probably a good thing. It means that I'm trusting myself to know what's best for my stories because after all, I'm the one who's in charge of them. I still read every piece of writing advice I can get my hands on (and now that my darling daughter is a preteen, all the parenting advice again, too), but I put it through the filter of my own experience and I think my writing (and parenting) is better for it.

 
Amy Christine Parker's first book baby, GATED, will be published by Random House on August 6, 2013. You can find out more about it and her at www.amychristineparker.com

4 comments:

  1. Ahh, the stress in life of doing everything right and to the letter. I have no disciple for that, but I applaud you...but mostly for saying...ah, we can't plan life, perfect child-rearing, or writing the perfect novel. When I tell my 8 year old, "I love you my perfect little angel," she always says, "Mommy, you are silly. No body is perfect and you always say you'd be bored if I was." I laugh and have to think I must be doing something right :) Have a great day and congrats on GATED!!!

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    1. Thanks for this comment! I am admittedly very type A and it took me awhile to ease up my own expectations for myself. In fact, I still work on it. This is probably why I was blessed with a daughter who doesn't fit into any typical boxes. She has taught me every bit as much as I hope I'm teaching her. Funny how we're blessed sometimes with exactly what we need:-)

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