Thursday, May 20, 2010

Writing and Parenting

Victoria Winterhalter, mother, teacher and writer, speaks about the connections between Motherhood and Writing. She has an incredible amount of insight on parenting--all free and accessible at Parenting By the Book, Richmond Family Magazine's blog.

I'm thrilled to have her as my first guest blogger!

Remember that book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum? I feel like everything I really need to know about parenting I learned from being a writer. For my blog, Parenting by the Book, I utilize my experiences as a freelance writer and English teacher just as much as I do those of motherhood because writing, like parenting, is largely based on what you’ve read and what you’ve experienced.

While we hate to admit it, both writing and parenting are learned through trial and error. Author Philip Roth writes, “I often write a hundred pages or more before there’s a paragraph that's alive. Okay, I say to myself, that’s your beginning, start there; that’s the first paragraph of the book.” With how hectic parenting can be, this is a hard correlation to accept but one that is real nonetheless. I know when it came to getting my four-year-old to be more independent I’d read numerous books and tried countless tricks. It wasn’t until I blogged about Raising Resilient Children by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein that my efforts paid off.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, writes that successful writers don’t “sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars…This is just the fantasy of the uninitiated.” Good writing, like good parenting, is hard work; even the best writers (and parents) feel uninspired from time to time. The key is to ride out your insecurities until you feel confident again for I believe Lamott was right when she wrote “Leap and the net will appear.”

Whether you’re writing, or parenting, you should think about when you are at your best and capitalize on it. Author Toni Morrison writes, “I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best creatively.” I’m a slow starter – at my best creatively in the afternoon; therefore, I’ve trained my kids to play together when they wake up. By the time they are on each other’s nerves, my coffee’s kicked in and I’m ready to play.

Last month, I heard Michele Young-Stone speak at a James River Writers event, and something she said confirmed this suspicion that all I really need to know about parenting I can learn from being a writer. Michele said when she got rejections she’d say she was done with writing while simultaneously putting another query letter in the mail to a potential agent – never giving up on her dream of publication. The reality is published authors succeed in large part because they aren’t afraid to reinvent their project until they find the format that reaches readers. It’s that kind of perseverance that makes for successful parents, too.

Victoria Winterhalter writes the blog Parenting by the Book for Richmond Family Magazine; she reads the parenting books so you don’t have to.

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