How Parenting Is Like Writing, Only Infinitely Crazier

Hello lovely readers!

Happy birthday to me and Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling!  🙂  Hooray!  I figured I’d come sneak in a blog post before the end of July, so at least it won’t look like I neglected the blog for TWO whole months, even though that is actually the case.  (La la la!)

But I’m writing Wings of Fire book five!  I know you’d rather have book five RIGHT NOW than more ramblings about babies and sleeping (or not sleeping, which is more likely around here) — right?

And you know what’s complicated?  Writing the fifth book of a series!  Especially when you have oodles of plot points to wrap up, and when you’re the kind of writer (ahem) who loves introducing new characters ALLLL over the place, because now I have to sort out how to explain what happened to all of them.  My notes for this book are all like: “OH WAIT WHERE’S RIPTIDE” and “whoops, must fit in Ruby” and “don’t forget Ochre! (again!)” (That poor dragon nearly met a gruesome, accidental, and untimely fate in book four because I forgot about him for a bit . . . when you read it I’m sure you’ll easily spot where and how!).  😉

But don’t worry, Peril fans — I definitely have a plan for her!  I’m so fascinated by how much author mail I get about this deadly, damaged, bad-ass SkyWing.  Of course she’ll be back . . . hopefully everyone will be back in book five!  Otherwise we’ll have to do another five books, won’t we?  😉  (What was that, FORESHADOWING?  Hmmmm!  Keep your fingers crossed!)

Anyway, I wanted to come on and share two things I recently came across on the Internet, both about writing and parenting.  As you may have noticed if you’ve ever read this blog, I have two hilarious, rambunctious, brilliant, dramatic, and occasionally thoroughly insane little boys, and I love them more than anything ever.  When I had the first one, I was like, ACK THIS IS CRAZINESS, but gradually I figured out a schedule and got back to writing.  And then I had the second one, and holy bananas, it’s SO MUCH CRAZIER!  It feels like nonstop lunacy around here most days.  NONSTOP.  LUNACY.  He’s been here for 15 months now, and I still don’t feel like I’ve sorted out a new successful work-life balance.  Pretty much every day ends with me feeling like I’ve neglected either my book or at least one of my bears.

So it’s always reassuring to discover other writers who are dealing with the same things and see how they do it!  I mean, imagine having more than two children.  Like, for instance, the wonderful and talented Shannon Hale, who has FOUR.  Four little ones!  And still writes the most amazing books!  (Austenland!  Princess Academy!  The Goose Girl!)

Here’s what she has to say about writing and mothering.  I love it especially because there are updates, so you can see it getting harder, but she’s still as determined and dedicated (to both jobs!) as always.  She sounds so smart and caring and real.  And I totally agree with everything she says — especially about how I write and I parent and that’s pretty much all I can do!  Especially when I’m on a deadline, I don’t exercise (well, I think chasing my toddler should count — he’s pretty fast!), I certainly don’t clean the house (ha ha! poor Adam), and clearly I quite abandon my blog.  🙂  And I couldn’t do anything at all without help; thank goodness for our wonderful nanny, my splendid mom, and my marvelous husband.

The same night I found Shannon’s post, I came across this article by Amy Shearn in The New York Times, where the writer talks about how she always feels a little bit guilty, like she’s not spending enough time on her writing or enough attention on her children.  I’m guessing everyone feels that way sometimes, no matter what their job or passion is, but I really loved the article for these lines:

“Writing is so much about the work of noticing. Fiction writing in particular demands intense noticing — studying how the emotional scaffolding of a human is built. When we’re not ignoring our loved ones in order to go write, we are living like watchmakers — picking apart conversations, analyzing recurring arguments, holding up to the light the wheels and cogs of our people so that we may understand them, yes, but also so we can learn how to create new people from scratch. You know, like mothers do.”

Ack YES!  So great!  Such a lovely wonderful way to think about what writing and parenting have in common.  I do spend a LOT of time thinking about how people — real ones and fictional ones — work and why they do what they do.  I must say, three-year-olds are a lot more mysterious than your average dragon.  (And much less willing to be rewritten!)

For instance, yesterday he was having an absolute sobbing meltdown because his mac and cheese was too hot, so I put it in the fridge NOOOOOOO NOT IN THE FRIDGE NOOOOO, so I immediately took it out and now he wanted it hot why wasn’t there steam coming out SOB SOB SOB it’s not hot enough (BEAR, it is LITERALLY still the same temperature) SOB I want to eat at the counter, I want you to sit next to me, I don’t want milk in THIS cup, oh my gracious heavens, on and on.  (Which of course means the other one is also wailing his head off, because if x, then y, where x is “whatever big brother is doing” and y is “baby brother must be caterwauling to drown him out”.)

So I flung a giant pile of food in front of the baby (this usually guarantees at least five minutes of peace), picked up my tragic three-year-old, took him to our big cozy chair, and tried to talk him through it.  And while I’m talking, trying to be reassuring and loving and understanding, he flips open a Shel Silverstein book, points to a poem and says: “Funny.”

“Honey,” I said, “is everything OK?  Do you feel any better?”

He points to the poem again and goes: “Funny.  Funny.”

So I’m like, “Yes, it’s funny.  Can we talk about this?  I want to make sure you’re all right.”

And he thinks about that, then goes, matter-of-factly: “Um — I just need to say ‘funny’ for a minute.”  Points to the poem again.  “Funny.  Funny.”

Which cracked me up enough that I couldn’t be frustrated with him anymore.  What a WEIRD combination of crazy toddler behavior and this totally mature “Mom, I just need to do this bizarre thing until I feel better” answer (plus, SO BOY, like, I’d rather be weird than talk about my feelings, Ma).  Goofball.

(It’s perhaps worth mentioning that by the time we got back to the kitchen, most of that giant pile of food had been flung all around the room, which is naturally Step B in the “When Caterwauling Doesn’t Work” emergency game plan.)

That story doesn’t really capture his fascinating mind at all (“Mommy, does the sun rise in outer space?”  “Daddy, don’t wash me!  I don’t want to be washed.  This is just for decoration.”  or, in the water at the beach:  “I’m keeping my wits!”  Me: “What?”  “I’ve kept my wits and my purple crayon!”  (!!! he’s quoting Harold and the Purple Crayon, which I doubt I could have done despite having read it nigh on fifty times now)) . . . but it’s a tiny part of how odd and hilarious he is.  🙂  I really don’t think I could ever invent a character as mystifying or charming as I find my children, although I suppose I’ll keep trying!

So when people ask me how I write and parent two kids at the same time, I think the answer would have to be: I fit in writing whenever I can, I’m late for everything all the time, I get lots of help, and when I’m with my bears, I try to give them 900% of my attention and love to make up for when I have to be in my office with the door closed.  And I keep telling myself my favorite parenting mantra: as long as you love them, you’re not doing it wrong.  Meaning, even though I might sometimes feel like I’m not a good enough parent, the truth is, they’re very loved, and so they’re going to turn out just wonderful.

Hopefully the same is true of book five — that it’ll turn out well, I mean!  It definitely could use a little more helicopter parenting right now.  🙂

I hope you’re all having a fabulous summer!

Quote of the Day:
The Doctor: So what did you call him? Will I blush?
Craig: No, we didn’t call him “The Doctor.”
The Doctor: No, I didn’t think you would.
Craig: He’s called Alfie. What are you doing here anyway?
The Doctor: Yes, he likes that, Alfie. Though personally he prefers to be called Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All.
Craig: Sorry, what?
The Doctor: That’s what he calls himself.
Craig: How d’you know that?
The Doctor: I speak baby.
Craig: Of course you do.
Doctor Who