There are days when I joke with my husband that I’m going to dedicate my next novel: To my children, without whom this book would have been finished sooner. Oh, it is tempting sometimes. My kiddos are my joy, my light, my universe– all those good things. One of the first things you learn as a parent is that all those squishy greeting-card sentiments? When it comes to your children, they are really true. But conducive to long stretches of uninterrupted writing time, small children are definitely not. I do have help– three mornings a week, our lovely babysitter comes and takes my girls to the park for a couple of hours so that I can sit in an amazingly quiet house and wedge a longer stretch of writing into our usually busy homeschooling schedule. But at the moment, she has the audacity to be off on her honeymoon (Kidding! I truly wish her a lovely time!) which leaves me without that luxury for three weeks.
(Right now as I type this, my girls are downstairs. Being suspiciously quiet. Which means that it will probably take me twice as long to clean up whatever mess they’re making as it will to write this post).
But anyway, I thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to remind myself that there are ways– really there are– that having small children has actually been an incredible benefit to my writing career.
You get to experience the world through a child’s eyes. I read somewhere or other that novelists should strive to bring the boundless wonder, curiosity, and amazement of a young child’s perspective to their writing. Look at that huge tree! Wow– look, a brown dog! Mama, you HAVE to see the enormous bug in the back yard. Children offer a daily reminder of the wonder and miracles to be found even in the minutia of daily life– and that awareness inevitably seeps into my writing.
You’re constantly reminded of the simple magic and power of stories. As a writer, I tend to automatically think in analytic terms of all the stories I encounter– those I write, those I read, even those I watch on a movie screen. And I think it’s important to do so– but at the same time, it’s easy to get a little bogged down by that sometimes: thinking in terms of micro and macro tension, character arcs, plot pinch points, etc. etc. My girls and I also read together for hours a day, though– and at 6 and 4, neither of them is consciously thinking about any of that. They simply love and respond to good stories, love getting lost in a make-believe world. It’s a breath-of-fresh-air reminder of the overarching purpose of all those craft techniques in my writing toolbox.
You have a constant, built-in reality-check when creating fictional child characters in your own books. [Read more…]