Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Writing is Like Parenting
Being a writer is like being a parent. It's part instinct and part crapshoot. You have a deep love and passion for it, but your daily efforts don't always appear to pay off. In writing, like parenting (as well as other arts) you have a lot to say, but sometimes no one is listening. You do both of them out of love.
Everything you produce is, and always will be, your baby. You have vivid dreams for the beloved's future. The rewards can be bittersweet. You let your child go out into the world realizing that was the goal - but your heart aches. You give your words little wings and watch them fly out of your hands (or computer) - and you can get hurt from that too, no matter how hard you worked or what your intentions.
One strangely universal experience of writers is that we proudly launch our books or blogs and they are ignored by those we're closest to. At first we are stunned. Just like with our children - you reject my baby, you reject me! Ouch! Here are a few of my theories:
1. In our writing we've opened a vein and let our guts spill out and it's plain old TMI. It might evoke emotion in the reader, they might not like blood-letting. Some people are afraid of feeling something.
2. The reader can't separate the writer from the writing, and that's understandable. But we writers DO have some imagination you know! We spend time observing other people's lives and take copious notes. So everything we write isn't necessarily from experience.
3. It's a time commitment. If you ask someone to read a book you're asking a lot:
a. The reader may not like to be told what to read - it's not their genre of preference.
b. They're pretty sure your book stinks and THEN what will they say?
c. They resent your accomplishment and do not want to honor it with attention.
d. They're afraid you are smarter than they thought and they're jealous.
e. They are illiterate and don't want you to know. (I think it's mostly a. or b.)
The thing is - we writers are okay with constructive criticism. It helps us improve our craft. We form groups to critique each other's work all the time. We also understand that books are a matter of taste. We're not necessarily brilliant - we just get fulfillment from writing - like someone else might from cooking or decorating or whittling.
We do, I suppose, believe we have something of value to say though, and therefore would like it to be read. If you don't love it, it's okay - just a kind word about the effort or love that went into it will do.
For the most part writers are insecure. We doubt our abilities and motivations on a daily basis. But we have a passion for self-expression that God cursed us with. We can work on a paragraph for weeks and then tear it up screaming My writing sucks and I am the suckiest writer who ever lived! We're much harder on ourselves than the readers.
So if you generously give your time to a struggling word-obsessed writer such as myself - and it does indeed suck - don't be too hard on us. We don't think of ourselves as geniuses. We're not looking for the Pulitzer Prize or Oprah's accolades - we're just doing something we love doing and apparently can't stop doing no matter what you say. Just like we'll always love and be proud of our children - no matter what anyone says.