Friday, November 8, 2013

Past, Present and Future, or How My Stupidity as a Parent Teaches me About Writing

I'm not a perfect parent. I happily share my mistakes with anyone who will listen, and I especially abhor parents who pretend that they are perfect--it just makes everyone else feel alone.

So, yesterday, my oldest son did something that made me mad. Yelling mad. Whipping shirt mad. Madder than I needed to get.

Today, of course, I'm thinking-thinking-thinking about it. And then...I apologized to my son. I told him I shouldn't have yelled. That I should have been calm about it. After all, he is only learning.

I wanted him to understand where I was coming from and why I got so pissed off.

I told him:

I don't just see you in the present. I see your entire past and all the hopes for your future all wrapped up in this one moment. It makes me super angry because this is the 1,000th time you've done this behavior (your past). I get angrier because I don't think that a thirteen-year-old should be behaving this way (your present), and I worry about your entire future because if you can't learn from this, I don't know how you will survive out in the real world (your future). That being said, I totally should not have gotten so mad! That was my baggage. My problem. You're an awesome kid and you're gonna turn out fine. :)

And this extreme reaction reminded me of writing. Specifically about why some portfolio pieces are so hard to write-- query letters, synopses, blurbs. It's so hard to come at those things calmly, with a clear sense of the project at hand.

I think these things are so hard not just because it is hard to boil an entire novel (or picture book) into tiny summaries, but also because as the creators, we see the entire history of our project (every single draft and all those revisions), we worry about what our project is at this moment (is it good enough to send to an agent/publisher), and we have this amazing dream of what this project might become.

Experiencing all that information at once immobilizes us.

So, when you are writing your query letter, your synopsis, your blurb, try to just think about what your project is today. If that makes you anxious, then you might need to go back and revise until your project is closer to what you dream it could be. If you still have trouble, ask one of your betas or a critter to help you execute the summary because that person won't have all the baggage that you do about your project.

Have you yelled at your kid recently? Have you yelled at your novel? :) What's your biggest frustration right now? I showed you mine--you show me yours!

Author's note: while composing this blog post, my daughter's birthday cake overflowed the pan and is now cooking onto the bottom of the oven. (Burning, in fact.) But that is another blog post entirely.


  1. I apologize to my kids all the time, every week, seemingling every day--I think it's the sign of good parenting! Sorry about the cake. I'll be baking one this weekend too. Wish me luck. :)

  2. I don't have kids to get mad at, but I often get mad at myself for not doing enough/getting things right/etc. Then I have to calm down and just keep plugging along.

  3. I actually got pretty mad at the dog the other night, and ended up apologizing to her since I was pretty harsh(and what she did was partially my fault!). And I've already apologized many times over to my little guy. I'd get super frustrated at night b/c he is not a good sleeper- I finally had to just let him cry it out for my sanity and snooze-time!

  4. Laura--I'm gonna go with that--apologizing=good parenting. :) Sending good baking vibes your way!

    Anna--I think you need to give yourself a break!

    Leandra--Oh no, I remember those days--crying it out was so hard for me--but so much better for my oldest son in the long run! I'm so glad you are on the other side of that equation!

  5. (um, where did my comment go? oh, well. to reiterate:)

    I stopped yelling at my son when he moved out. To be fair, he was 22 and his girlfriend kicked him out of the apartment they were living in (a finished second floor to a barn out back built by the previous owners). : )