Monday, January 9, 2012

Mommy Monday: Lessons on Writing (from my kids)

Yes, it's nearly midnight as I write this post.  It would be so easy to give up, and skip my self-imposed deadline or just blog tomorrow.

"No," said my two-year-old when I told him I didn't do my "Mommy Work" today.  "Go now," he said, and pushed me off the bed.

He's right.  I've got work to do.

And for the past week, I've realized that kids are right a lot of the time.  At least my kids, anyway.

Let me explain.

Lesson 1:  Routine
For Christmas, my daughter got a "Responsibility Chart."  If I miss a day of positive rewards (at least now, while it's new) I'm more likely to miss two.  She goes beserk when I'm inconsistent.  She's taught me the importance of routine.  Get in the habit of writing every day, just like she's in the habit of being rewarded.  Make a chart if you have to.  And reward yourself if you have to, too.

Lesson 2:  It's all about KIDS
For Christmas, my son got many picture books.  One of them (which I will not name for fear the author will see) I read to him on Christmas morning.  And hated it.   But my reluctant reader sat through the entire thing...and then asked to read it again.  And again.  About two weeks and thirty reads later, I still hate the text of the story.  But my son loves it...and I've come to respect the fact that this author blew off what parents were going to say and grabbed my two-year-old's attention.  My boy loves reading (and sits through more than one book now)!  And he's taught me that writing for children is about children.  It's not about us.  We must consider our manuscripts from the viewpoint of our audience.

Lesson 3:  Whining gets you nowhere
In some circles, the "squeaky wheel gets the grease."  But not in my household.  My kids have learned to learned to "turn it off like a faucet." And if you're a writer, you should, too.  After reading a lot of blogs over the past week (I'm doing the Comment Challenge) - the ones that are the best are the ones without whining.  In the writing industry, the squeaky wheels aren't getting published.  It's the ones who can self-oil, and keep on trucking through hard times.  Complain to your husband or your local writer's group when you're away at the cabin.  As for your blog, bashing "them" or "the industry" just sounds like whining.  And if I think that, what's an editor  going to think?

Lesson 4: Patience
We, as parents, are quick to judge children as impatient.  But is this really the case?  We're often the ones rushing them out the door, or to pick something at the market, or to hurry here or there.  The other night, I was having a "heart to heart" with my five-year-old about a rejection letter I got recently.  "Don't worry, Mom," she said.  "Just send it to somebody else.  And if no one likes your stories, just wait until I grow up and then I'll turn them into books for you."  She's willing to wait twenty plus years, no big deal.  It's simple.  Just send it to somebody else.  Or wait.  And that's exactly what I intend to do.

What lessons on writing have you learned from your kids?
Other people's kids?
I'm curious to know.
Comments are open!


Nicole said...

very interesting post! but I wonder... your son was up at midnight?????? ;-)

Joanna said...

Kids heading our for recess or going down the hall at school enjoy holding hands. It can be the teacher's hand, another child's hand, or a parent's hand, children look for a hand to grasp. They long for the sense of comfort felt through the touch of someone's hand.

We all need to feel comfort, but often we're afraid to ask for another person's support because we are too embarrassed or proud We all, at times, need to hold someone's hand.

Kids remind me of this all the time

patientdreamer said...

Oh I just melted reading this post, especially the last part... Patient. He's prepared to wait and make it into a book for you.... thats love!
I was nearly going to say the same thing as Joanna, as I have many a time had a child race to hold my hand non of them mine mind you (I don't have any) and I can understand that need to touch to reach out... although I am one of those to embarrassed to do so.

What I also know is their willingness to see over and above your mistakes. They know you tried and did your best. The same could be said of our writing to not fret when making that first draft, that's what revision is for, what critique groups are for, what that reader friend is for to help get your manuscript to the best it can be, no matter how long it takes.
Now I am going to read this post again, I loved it.

Miranda Paul said...

Nicole - no, not midnight (that's when I actually finished writing). But he was up until almost ten...way past his bedtime due to a very long, late nap :(

Joanna - oh, isn't the hand holding so nice! They are so good at reminding me how nice it feels to be comforted. Thank you for sharing!

patientdreamers - I am glad you liked it. The last part was actually stewing in my head since my five-year-old made that comment about publishing my books in the future...and after reading a few writer-friends complaints on their blogs, I knew that's what I wanted to blog about yesterday.

Thank you for reading!

Michelle Cusolito said...

Oh, I LOVE the photo! Your kiddo is so stinkin' cute!

Thanks for the positive spin on this tough industry. I'm with you... I just leave blogs that are whiny. No-one likes whining.

I agree...Stay positive, keep working, BIC! (Butt in Chair, A phrase from Jane Yolen)

CarrieBoo said...

Great points to remember (it's amazing what our kids teach us)... and that is one cute kid. My goodness.

Irene Latham said...

From my son who's a competitive runner: "sometimes, when it's cold,it's okay to take a day off. Just don't take off two in a row." :)

And I agree wholeheartedly about the best blogs being the ones that turn the faucet off! My mama would say:
"quit yer bellyachin!"

Laura said...

I really, REALLY need to remember 3 and 4. Working on getting published seems to be the arch nemesis of those things, lol. But as usual, the kids are right.

@Joanna - I'm an elementary teacher, and the holding hands thing is one of my top 5 reasons for loving the little ones. The sweetness of it melts me every time.

Miranda Paul said...

@Irene - your son sounds like a smart young man

@Laura - Welcome! Just send off your submissions and forget about them. That's what a friend told me. Download Words with Friends and you'll have a distraction :)

Sanjay Nambiar said...

Great post! And yes, our kids are usually right! :) They thrive on routine and attention, whereas so many of us adults live chaotic lives that are frenetic and unfocused (try getting ready for work, making breakfast, dressing the kids, and doing preschool drop-off, just for beginners!). Our children have that privilege, but there's a tremendous amount of Zen in just being in the present moment. And that's exactly what kids are great at . . .

Helga Pearson said...

This is so beautiful and insightful. I have a 3yr old and I'm so often wrapped up in my goal of being a better illustrator that I often overlook his little 'wisdoms'. Being a mom and being creative is an immense balancing act. Thank you for reminding me about what's really important at the end of the day - not what the world thinks about us or our work but what our little rugrats believe, that we are wonderful and worthy.

Ed DeCaria said...

I agree with your lesson #2. We've gotten as gifts or borrowed from the library some PBs that I think are dreadful but my 3yo enjoys them. So it helps me as a writer to pick up on what she likes and why ... she helps me to see what I cannot see!

As for other lessons my kids have taught me, here's one that you might not have expected: the occasional need for absolute and total self-indulgence, without fear of critique or embarrassment or clock. You want to spend 45 minutes on one line? Screw it. Do it. You want to write a haiku about a mortally-wounded raccoon?

Troubled trash tycoon
Found R-I-P in the bag
Final wish fulfilled


Kindof an oddball "lesson" but as a writer I think it is important to indulge (while writing) every so often.


Mindy said...

I have learned a lot of great lessons from my daughter. She's four now, and in serious curiosity mode. She always has such interesting questions that make me think about things differently. I love that!

Great post, btw. :)

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