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It’s not like I can give up parenting and go to grad school. I haven’t even paid off the last one.
Here’s a tip: write and then assess. Was I writing this down in order to clear my head? If yes, then it’s emotional garbage. Don’t try to publish every piece of emotional garbage that was cluttering your head. You’re writing to get it out of your head, not to put it into the world. Put it away. Post in on FB if you have set up appropriate privacy standards. Or better still save it in a file. Don’t look at it again. Head cleared, get back to your real work.
Obviously if your real work is a memoir, well, it’s interesting isn’t it? Memoirs and creative nonfiction are such a delicate balance of the author needing to process his own feelings (listen to our podcast of Darin Strauss discussing why he wrote his memoir) and wanting to advise others on how to deal with the issues you faced (Abby Shur, our very first Pen Parentis Fellow, wrote a memoir about obsessive praying. The podcast of the panel discussion that night is available to logged-in members of Pen Parentis.) And the noise of the garbage in our head can be so damned loud sometimes that it’s hard to find the creative space to actually write fiction. So maybe that memoir is important. But take some real time assessing whether it’s important because it cleared out the creative space in your head, or if it’s important because it will actually help other people get through what you went through.
We as writers forget that writing does not necessarily equal readers reading. So many writers publish too quickly and are appalled at the horrific feedback they get in comments (too easy for response, no one writes you a letter flaming your book, they just post it to the whole world after they give you one star on GoodReads.) So think twice before you publish your personal junk. Be sure. And then treat it like any writing – get an editor, make every word count, and like I said last week, make sure your main character (that would be you) is clear on what they want. In a positive way.
Remarkably? this helps with parenting too. If you are clear on what you want “I want you to wear shoes that will not get damaged in the rain today.” Then your kid can assert what they want “I want to wear my diamond studded felt-and-cork flip flops” and you can discuss without fighting. “Will your diamond-studded shoes be damaged by the rain?” “Yes, and I don’t care.” “I’m sorry you don’t care. However, you must find shoes that won’t get damaged by the rain.” “I hate you, you are a horrible mother.”
Well, it’s dramatic, anyway. Write it down on the back of that receipt for those shoes (what possessed you to buy those in the first place??) In the novel you’re writing, that girl would have put on her rhinestone-studded rubber flip flops and gotten to school on time. When you drop off Princess at third grade, come home and change the scene to reflect the much-more-entertaining reality of conflict. Or have your character wear the shoes to school and they’ll dissolve into a puddle of actual money that slips down into the sewer…