Friday, May 7, 2010

Rutkoski on Books and Babies

Marie Rutkoski, author of The Celestial Globe, muses about some of the advice offered in The Guardian's recent series on good writing. Excerpts:
Some of the old saws were there (Adverbs: bad! He said, she said: good!), and while I don't know everything about writing, I know enough to realize that no one should follow any of these rules zealously, because the result would be stiff and artificial. But I found myself feeling, oh, a little guilty of certain writing sins, and then came the anxiety, and then came Richard Ford's Rule #2: Don't have children. ...

Yes, of course, having a baby derails the writing process for some time. And I will be the first to say that I have essentially no social life, because there's just nothing left after being a mom, professor, and writer. I used to be big into rock climbing. No more. A lot falls by the wayside.

But I'd argue that having a child improved my skills as a writer, and I'd be surprised if I were the only one.
Read the whole thing. Like Rutkoski, I admit to being both perturbed at Ford's counsel and having tons of difficulty writing after the birth of my adorable, irascible, exhausting and utterly awesome son. "Draining" only begins to describe the process of trying to fill a brand-new person with everything he needs to face the world. And while Ford probably (and perhaps rightly) thought that few can manage both two goals, he seems to have forgotten an axiom that comes to most of us as soon as pick up the pen: Life never wants us to write. Whenever I clear a little space in my mental 40 acres, there are a hundred more productive things I could plant there than a new narrative, a thousand external pests that will eat it if I allow them and ten-thousand doubts crying that the entire effort is foolishness. It's never easy. To write we must write, no matter our circumstances.

(Picture: CC 2009 by


pattinase (abbott) said...

Took me several reads before I understood you were not saying, you were a Mom.

Loren Eaton said...

Oh, goodness, no. I'm not a mom. I fear that's biologically impossible.

Ben Mann said...

I remember finding Ford's advice vaguely offensive. It felt like a conversation I had recently with someone who mentioned some conflict in real life, then looked at me and said 'bringing kids into this world just seems wrong'. What a defeatist world view.

Heck, I'd take the opposite side to Ford's (and offend the other half of society): If you've the emotional sensitivity to build multidimensional characters, and the intelligence and perseverance to string together complex and believable plots, then maybe you'd make a better parent than what some kids are stuck with.

The fact is that most of us are dealing with more than just writing while rearing children - draining day jobs and other commitments still exist for most of us (and for non-writers too). Ultimately I think it just comes down to setting aside the time when you can, and being accepting when you can't. Writing at 4am before the kids are awake can be tough, but then, they're the writers who push hardest (which brings to mind a recent post on Moonrat's blog).

Loren Eaton said...

I don't think any of us would deny that having kids makes writing more difficult. Heck, it makes everything tougher for me. But as far as spending your life goes, raising up an entirely new person is pretty darn rewarding. And, yup, it might just help your literary efforts -- and vice versa.