You know, you ‘birth’ your work, you shape and nurture it, you apply some heavy-handed discipline when the characters fall out of line. Sometimes you reign in your storyline, while at others you allow it to take on a life of its own.
All true. Yet somehow, this whole child metaphor doesn’t really stack up for me.
Least of all the notion that in writing, you have to murder your babies.
Makes me cringe, that one – for obvious reasons. Once you become a parent, anything even vaguely implying harm to your child will make your throat constrict and your stomach knot. Yes, I know there are times for ruthlessly culling your work. Times to let go of what no longer serves your story. But infanticide? A plausible metaphor, perhaps. A reality of population control in ancient Rome, yes. But don’t talk to me about smothering children when my own is sleeping peacefully in the next room.
< I say this fully aware that my poetic firstborn is currently undergoing serious mutilation… purely on paper. >
Then there’s the philosophy that your ideas are your children.
I can buy that… to a point. After all, if you don’t care enough about your ideas to pour your heart and soul into them, they remain nothing more than a figment of your imagination, a mere twinkle in your eye. But unlike children, you can have as many ideas as you like, no contraception required.
I am guessing that all these child connections are made by well-meaning writers who currently don’t have small children in their lives.
But who is talking about what happens when your real-life, in-your-face-now child competes for attention with your authored offspring?
I can only speak for myself here but the real-life, in-your-face-now child wins just about every time.
I may wake up at 3am with a burning idea about a new piece, or a key turn of phrase that will make a current one stronger. I will do my very best to blaze that thought into my brain in the hope that its ashes still smoulder there come morning. But I tend to stay snuggled under the duvet. Sleeping with a husband and a toddler isn’t conducive to nocturnal writing spells. When the babe on the other hand rises in the small hours, there’s no hiding under the covers. She can be just as persistent as that red-hot thought, but with much greater volume.
Then there’s that sacred time dedicated to daily writing. It doesn’t always retain its consecrated status whereas daily childcare is a given. I can take a day off writing but honestly, I can’t yet recall 24 hours when I haven’t spent time with Lilly.
So when it comes to sibling rivalry, I can almost guarantee that the immediate needs of the real-life, in-your-face-now child are going to trump over those literary ones. After all, whoever shouts loudest usually gets the attention. Lilly’s got a pretty strong set of lungs.
But I believe my writing is finding its voice. And at least in writing, unlike parenting, you always have the option of starting over with a blank page…
…without resorting to overly dramatic gestures.