If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. ~C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939
Today is my baby's birthday. Well, my 'book baby', that is. A year ago this day was the release of my very first book, Candy G.
In a post last year, I compared the process---the writing, the release of the book and its future after it hits the public---to birthing a baby.
In looking back over the past year, I've found the experience is still parallel to parenting. Maybe even more so.
Now that my baby's been on his own, he's---in a manner of speaking---in public school. And, just as with my flesh-and-blood child, I've only been able to sit on the sidelines and watch, cheer him on, cry when he gets dumped on, cry happy tears when he makes new friends and sometimes---yes, I'll admit it---get my Irish up when he gets attacked.
Candy G has met with some wonderful feedback. He's encountered some not-so-wonderful feedback as well. Let's say he's a very well-rounded boy.
One facet of this experience, though---one that I find a little disturbing and comical at the same time---is that, like our real kids, our books sometimes bring out that other side of parenting. The not-so-pretty side. Jealousy. Competiveness with our baby's peers.
I'm not hesitant to step forward and admit I sometimes find myself harboring this unattractive parental flaw.
Picture it. Your baby's a new kid on the block. You want him to be accepted, to make friends. Just as your baby who gets passed up for the team, who doesn't make cheerleading, who isn't popular, there is that bit of ache on your part. Whether it's rational or not, it just is. It's a parent thing. Pride.
Sure, it hurts to see the popular kids get snatched up by the big, well-kown review sites, to have a year pass only to see your baby was just never big enough to capture their interest. I'd be lying to say that does not smart just a tad.
But, I had to look at it in this light: if your child cried to you that another child didn't like them, would you tell them to try to force that other kid to accept them? No, you would not. Would you encourage your offspring to cry, tell them to withdraw because someone out there doesn't take to them? Again, no. You wouldn't.
It does sting when a reader just flat does not like your book. It's easy for that old jealousy to seep in when they brag about the books they love but not yours.
I'm only human, and the envy does find its way into my gut sometimes. But, with a year behind me since my book's release, my outlook has broadened to accept the bad with the good. I've finally learned not to take it personal.
I'd love to pretend I don't feel envy from time to time when I compare my work to other books, when I try to measure my own talent side-by-side against other authors. Some have gifts I simply do not have. Once more in that real kid to-literary child comparison: some kids are good in sports, some are not. Some kids have musical talents. Some don't. Same with authors.
Think about this, though. Is it wise for a parent to push its child into doing that which it cannot do, that which it isn't inclined to do, only because other kids can do it? Do I even have to ask you to answer that? The answer is of course not. If the child does possess a strength that could be nurtured, then fine---nurture it. Again, the same applies to our writing. As authors, we should cultivate our own strengths, our own gifts. And we all do have our own unique gifts.
Oh, I will work my ass off to improve my writing. But only for my writing's sake, not to compete. I strongly feel that competition---when triggered by an unhealthy dose of envy---can strangle our creativity. We're no longer writing for the love of it. We're no longer listening to our inner voice, where beauty and all things creative reside, we're following whispers that are coercing us to imitate others. Would we encourage our children to do this? Well, I hope not.
I get envious, too---or is it simply frustration?---when other authors are able to produce books faster than me. After all, I certainly thought I'd have had at least one book out during this year. But I haven't. I occasionally whine, why can't I writethat fast?Why, why, why?
But my pace is my pace, plain and simple. I figure as long as I am writing, I'm happy. Those future children will come along in their own good time.
In the meantime, I found another writing quote that made me smile, seemed to address me and my book/child parallel.
Sydney J. Harris said, The beauty of "spacing" children many years apart lies in the fact that parents have time to learn the mistakes that were made with the older ones - which permits them to make exactly the opposite mistakes with the younger ones.
So see? My slow pace is simply meant to be. Maybe I am going to have a chance---with this lull between books---to learn and learn and learn.
At any rate, it has been a good year. A wonderful experience that---just like with my real child---I would not trade for the world.
So happy birthday, Candy G. You've been a good son any mom would be proud of!