I don’t know if you know, but last month, I decided, on a whim, to take part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. It started on November 1 and is a month of writers around the world committing to making progress, and/or, hopefully, finishing their novels.
I have written before about novels I’ve attempted and failed at finishing. So that I’m doing this now, with a three-month old and two toddlers, is kind of beyond me. But I’m attempting it, nonetheless, at a very, very, very slow pace because I’ve realized that being creative, doing creative things make me happier, a better mother, a better writer. I need to be creative in the same way that I need to eat each day and sleep at night.
Yesterday in working on my novel (that sounds so official and legitimate, doesn’t it?), I thought of this post idea, or five ways that writing a novel is like being a mother. Here’s what I came up with:
In the beginning, and many times throughout, you may feel like you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.
You feel like a fraud, like someone else is doing this better than you. You will feel like someone else is doing this well and doesn’t have these self defeating thoughts and pitiful concerns. And that’s okay. It’s to be expected. Writing a novel is like getting accidentally lost in a densely wooded and terrifying forest. It’s like stepping into the thick of cold earth with only your previous footsteps as a guide to where you could possibly go. Where will you go? Well, that, you have no idea. But in order to get somewhere, in order to eventually see the sun and find humankind, you must keep walking, keep writing, keep being the kind of mother that you know your children need. You have to focus on your steps and just. keep. going. The first step is always the hardest? Yes. This always applies.
Sometimes you will doubt yourself. Okay, you will doubt yourself a lot.
It will feel easier to do nothing at all than to do something that you think may mean nothing at all in the long run. But in doing nothing, and in, instead going something else, some distraction from that parenting thing or story plot you feel is unconquerable– you will always be stuck at nothing. It leads nowhere. Why am I writing novel, again? I ask myself this question often when I am writing the words that I hope, one day, will result in a finished product, a novel that I can hold and tell my children, “I wrote this.” There’s this voice that speaks to me when I’m writing. It tells me to stop. That I’m wasting my time. That I will never finish. That I am not good enough. That my work as a parent is worthless to that rest of the world. But I write and parent though that voice, that inner critic who often speaks the loudest, I’ve realized, when I’m on the verge of doing something that I will someday know to be marvelous.
It’s a labor of novel.
Along the same lines as number 2, I’m always amazed by people who write novels. I amazed at anyone who can spend months, or, sometimes, years with anything without knowing what it will all mean in the long run. Novel writing, in that way, is much like being a mother. You spend years on your children, you obsess over the details of their development without knowing, really, what all your efforts are worth. But you know they are worth something and that’s why you continue to write, continue to mother babies…because even if your best case scenario doesn’t happen the process of nurturing something you’ve created, something that’s yours…well, it’s all worth it.
It’s hard but can get easy, too.
Is parenting hard? Yes and No. In the same way that writing a novel is sometimes hard and sometimes not hard. These both are hard when you are starting out or in rough patches, but when you find your groove, things are easy, or easier. And it’s those easy moments that make doing parenting or writing a novel all the while. It’s those easy moment that make the bad, hard moments seem not as bad and hard.
The key to surviving this long journey is persistence, patience, and determination.
Mothering challenges me, daily. I often do wonder how other mothers who’ve done it, did it. Is there a special gene for good mothering? Perhaps, I don’t have it. Is something wrong with me? I often do ask these mothers about “their secrets” and they tell me, always, the same thing: persistence, patience, and determination are what makes it a whole lot easier. I believe this, or I’ve seen this in my own mothering and now with my writing of a novel.
If you’ve written a novel (or attempted writing a novel) and are a mother, weigh in! What are some ways that writing a novel is like being a parent? Anyone else working on something creative at the moment? Please share with me what you’re doing!