Could your novel be your child?

Okay, so this may be a stretch, but hear me out. I was watching Jo Frost: Extreme Parenting and there was a section in the episode about parents not spending quality time with their children. She recommended the 30 minute challenge – spending half an hour with your child when you get home from work, then another 30 minutes with them just before bed. And I wondered: would that kind of technique would work with writing?

Apparently parents are spending less and less quality time with their children as work encroaches on our down time and technology becomes a willing accomplice out of work hours, providing us with more information, random queries and urgent, must read and respond, emails and texts that are work related . It occurs to me that perhaps writers (and I specifically mean myself, but there are probably others – I hope!) are guilty of the same distractions. We love writing as much as parents adore their children, but we can also misplace our focus and drive and occasionally neglect the very thing that we love to the point of utter neglect.

Now, I don’t have children, but it occurs to me that if I considered my writing as a member of my family then perhaps I would begin to prioritise it as such. Thus, I couldn’t just hide it away in a drawer somewhere or forget to ‘feed’ it with nutrious, meaty words every evening as that would constitute neglect. It would be irresponsible to shout and scream at it when it doesn’t appear to be doing well enough, and similarly throwing it in the corner or against the wall out of sheer frustration could be considered serious abuse. Sometimes it will need nuturing and caring for, perhaps a little extra attention now and then. Occasionally it might seem like it is failing, but then it would require support and encouragement to continue on and push through the difficult challenges that occur in every family grouping. If my novel were a child – how differently would I approach it and care for it and develop it?

So, maybe it is about time that we started thinking of our novels, or writing activity, as our children. We need to spend quality time with it without excuses or minor distractions to take us away from it. The writing needs us, because without our care and contribution there is nothing to develop – it becomes an unwanted child, abandonded and helpless. There aren’t any charities dedicated to rescuing and caring for those neglected novels or stories left undone: there is only us – the writer – and we have a responsibility to that piece of writing to nurture it to its full potential.

It brings to mind another campaign that had a very distinctive slogan that I’m going to put on my wall above my writing desk to remind me of the dedicated attitude I need to adopt:

“Writing is for life. Not just for Christmas.”  

 

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