Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing and Parenting (1)

One of the most difficult problems for a writer (painter, muscian, etc.) with children to overcome is how to find time to do our writing. Our children take up a tremendous amount of our time. How do we satisfy our need to be an artist and our need to be a parent? Parenting is immediate. It is now. There is no I'll get to it later. Unfornately, our writing can be put off until later, and that's what usually happens.

 It's an age-old delimma, in some ways more perplexing for women than for men, and in some ways more perplexing for men than for women. And, really, the problem confronts anyone who runs their own business, maybe even anyone who works and has a family. The demand for shelter and nurture comes first. It is paramount. The ideal solution is when writing, shelter, and nurture all merge into one. Is it possible for that to happen?

Family life is a constant mix, an ever changing matrix, because as our children grow older, and/or  new ones come along, our needs and relationships change. And oftentimes, with more than one child, different networks form. We might have to take care of an infant, an adolescent, and a teenager all at the same time. Besides being exhausting, it's time consuming.

Writing a novel, poetry, whatever, takes a commitment, and usually a commitment over a long period of time. Ideally, a person who wants to be a writer knows so at a very young age (I was about thirteen or fourteen when I knew it) and commits herself to writing then and there and gets published at a fairly young age, makes a lot of money, finds a wonderful spouse/partner, and her writing pays the bills, and she lives happily ever after. Of course, it usually doesn't happen that way. If it has, I don't know about it. (As I think about it, John Updike might have done it, or some version of it.)

So these two aspects of our lives--writing and parenting--are, at least on the surface, antagonistic to one another.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Making It' When You're Younger vs. 'Making It' When You're Older

Does anyone doubt that succeeding at almost anything is better if you do so when you're younger (say, between eighteen and thirty)? Doing so in pop music, sports, even acting, seems relatively easy for those professions compared to doing so as a writer. How many writers make it when they are teenagers? I can think of only one: Arthur Rimbaud, who quit writing poetry around age eighteen.

Why is making it in music, sports, even acting, relatively easy for the younger person?

Musical ability is innate. If you have talent, it usually manifests early in life. I do not think musical talent develops much with age. If you are not born with it, you will never get it.

Sports is based heavily on physical ability, and most of us peak in our late teens to very early thirties. Then we're done. Most professional athletes 'retire' in their thirties.

Acting is a talent that can be mastered, I think. It can grow with practice. One can make it at any almost any age. But making it in acting has a lot of intagibles. It helps greatly to be beautiful or handsome. Youth and beauty are a powerful combination. For most people, like athletes, actors tend to peak at an early age. Many actors in their thirties are beginning to decline. But there are many people trying to make it in acting, so what allows a few to make it and most others to not? Is it connections? No doubt they help. Talent certainly has to be a part of it, too. It's a mix of benefits that helps a person make it in acting. Sometimes it's just plain dumb luck.

Why is making it as a writer at a young age so difficult? What are the obstacles? The first thought that comes to mind is life experience. What do older people know that younger ones do not? It's very difficult to be precise, but I think part of it is balance. Older people have seen the good and the bad within everything. Younger people are still trying to figure out the good from the bad; they see the good and the bad in very definite ways. Something is good or bad, period. Older people see that all things are both good and bad; there is a downside and an upside to everything. It takes time to realize it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The downtime between finishing a project and starting a new one seems interminable, even if it's only a few days or weeks. The anxiety of not knowing what I'm going to work on next is high and distressing. The fear that I can't write anymore is the most distressing part. So I feel compelled to get to work on something--anything--to erase that fear.

Why is writing so important to me? Is it bound up with my identity, my self-worth--sense of failure if I don't write? Is the very act of writing thrilling, satisfying, fulfilling? Is the thought of the finished product what drives me? Is it the thought of fame and/or fortune? Is it some psychological search for meaning, a kind of internal/external journey toward self-discovery? Is it the execution and fulfillment of a plan that gives meaning to writing? Is it the expression of myself and my beliefs through my characters that make writing so valuable? Is it the illusion of living a different life for a while that gives writing its appeal? Is it the sense of discovery that mesmerizes me?

I could probably answer 'yes' to all those questions. Writing is living a dream, and dreaming is one of the most satisfying things a person can do. And, if that is so, then getting published is really secondary to the pleasure of writing.