Friday, April 22, 2011

Writing versus Cornflakes

(Christian, several years ago, on her way to college)

Yesterday an insightful (and probably suntanned) blogger in Hawaii sent a few questions that got me thinking. Question number two: What’s more difficult, breaking into publishing or raising four young adults?

Wow. No Contest. Raising the kids.

Sure, breaking into publishing is extremely difficult. The writer who is serious about her craft will write hundreds—perhaps thousands—of pages destined for the trash bin before submitting that first, polished novel to a literary agent or a book editor. If she has the courage to self-publish, she’ll ask her critique partners to perform slash-and-burn operations on her prose. Before uploading to Amazon or B & N she’ll edit once more, keeping in mind Stephen King’s mandate to evict the “little pretties” from every chapter, those long, loopy sentences a writer pens, thinking, “Ah, how beautiful!” but which make the reader think, “What the hell?”

In comparison to parenting, all of the above is a walk in the park amidst the daisies.

I’ve been a single parent for many years now. I can’t threaten the use of serious ammo: “Missy, wait until your father gets home.” I can’t head for the exits when an adolescent implodes. Every issue a child faces on the journey to adulthood is mine to navigate. Rough seas? Often. But the days of sunshine are the sweetest reward.

My two older kids are now in college. The younger two are wrapping up high school. Born in the Philippines, they were abandoned at an early age. I became their mother in my late 30s after working for years in public relations. Fifteen years later, we’re a tight-knit group.

The home office where I write straddles both the worlds of motherhood and writing. High school graduation invitations are neatly stacked beside my current WIP. There’s a note by the keyboard to remind my oldest daughter to wrap up her passport application for that semester abroad. It’s Friday, and all four kids (and the dogs) had a party in the living room last night. Where’s the vacuum?

All parents will agree the days are many when you're not sure how to guide your child. I have a few tricks: get one kid alone in the car and drive slowly. Kids tend to open up on the open road. Hug your child often. There's a direct correlation between lack of parental affection and how quickly a young adult becomes sexually active. Insist the kids pitch in. If I'm preparing egg rolls, someone offers to fry them and someone else appears at the sink, to help with the dishes. Praise your children often and tell them--every night--how much you love them. Small steps all, but they'll make a rocky road easier to tread.


  1. Christine,
    I couldn't agree more. Raising children is the hardest thing I've ever done. And writing a novel was hard. But with writing it gets easier the more you do it. Children seem to get harder.

  2. Thanks for posting, Tess. What I find amazing is that novelists like you produce stellar work while your children are still young. In a million years, I couldn't have pulled off Little Land and Writing Wonders at the same time. God bless.