Writing in the Beginning (The First Born Child)

Monday, August 19, 2019
Youngest Junior Hall was hanging about for a few days recently and as is often the case with this third child, I was reminded of how different I was as a mother, between my firstborn and the lastborn. And then my mind wandered to writing—because technically, I was supposed to be working—and bam! I could see obvious parallels between writing and parenting.

Writing in the Beginning (The First Born Child)

It’s always easy to spot the first-time parent. She’s the one obsessively disinfecting the pacifier; he’s reading the most up-to-date parenting books and highlighting entire pages. In short, the first-time parent is a super attentive sponge. It’s exhausting.

The just-starting-out writer is much the same. She’s the one at the writing conference who is actually taking notes (and highlighting them later). He has a ton of books on writing topics, and he’s probably read at least half of ‘em. The beginning writer is often super-focused on learning as much of the craft as possible. It will wear one out, watching this Writer-gizer Bunny tackling everything!

Oh! And their first writing success? It’s a celebration for the ages! SO many pictures of that first acceptance (no pay, but it still counts). Time to post cupcakes and sparklers, toasting with champagne…exactly like those parents who post every milestone in that first baby’s life (and P.S. maybe the cord dropping off is not a milestone we all need to see). It’s a whole new world for everyone—and whether parent or writer—the excitement rolls along like a tsunami.

And then another baby (or two) comes along and for the writer, days turn into weeks, months to years…

Writing After Ten Years (The Third Born Child)

I don’t know about other parents, but by the time Youngest Junior Hall came along I didn’t have time to be super attentive—or even sort of attentive. And it’s a documented fact (or more accurately un-documented fact) that his baby book consists of about eight pictures. Nobody bothered reading any of the latest baby info out there because by then, we’d pretty much seen it all. And what we hadn’t seen, we figured it’d all work out eventually. (Well, except for the double inguinal hernia…that I had not seen before and called the pediatrician). The point is, by the third born child, a parent gets a bit jaded. And by a bit, I mean a lot.

It’s the same for the writer who’s been at it for ten or more years. We’re not excited by the no-pay acceptances anymore; we want big, fat, paychecks—and those are a bit harder to come by. And by a bit, I mean a lot. Not that we won’t toot those horns when we have a success, but it has to be a HUGE success—like a three-book contract! And we might still go to conferences, but to see friends or teach, not so much to learn something new. Because the truth is, we’ve seen or heard most of it before, and if it’s terribly new and complicated, we’re not sure we’re up to figuring it out, anyway. Bottom line, we get jaded, too.

But it’s all part of the process, whether parents or writers, and every step along the way is important. The first heady days as a writer are just as necessary as the early exhilarating days as a new parent; those memorable waves of joy and triumph carry us through the long haul of ups and downs to come.

So for those of you just starting out, congratulations! You’ll write circles around me, I’m sure, and you’ll know all sorts of new stuff, and you'll push boundaries and make the writing world a better place. You keep us all inspired, even if you are kinda obnoxious.

And for those who’ve been at it for a long while, congratulations! You’ve stuck to it, you’ve weathered the highs and lows, and you handle it all with a certain amount of equanimity. You’re inspiring, too, but honestly, you’re also kinda obnoxious. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

Whatever. All I really want to say is let’s go celebrate with sparklers and cupcakes! We deserve it!

And just for the record, Youngest Junior Hall (sorta) turned out all right.

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I don't usually do Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, so I don't know this: Do people actually post photos or announce when the umbilical cord drops off?


Your comparison is spot-on. New writers are easy to identify. Experienced ones (I hesitate to say "old" ones) are usually easy to spot as well, even though they're often quiet about their accomplishments.

As far as our kids--if they aren't in prison or they haven't turned our hair completely white with their antics, they DID turn out well.

Renee Roberson said...


Oh, this post is spot on. My poor second child has maybe four photos in his baby scrapbook and he spent so much time napping in his swing while I tried to make the writing thing work! I'm entering a completely different season of parenting and writing now that my kids are teenagers. My problem now? I sometimes take on too many writing projects because I feel like I should be able to handle it breezily at this stage of my career. Must. say. no!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Spot on! My husband and his siblings convinced the youngest daughter she was adopted because there were so few baby photos of her.

And yeah, we do forget how it was when it all felt so NEW. Thank you for the reminder!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Glad it resonated with y'all! And oh, Sioux, you would be surprised what you'll see on social media. But I still get a little thrill, seeing the (many, many, MANY) pictures of my kids'friends' newborns' achievements. (Wow. That was a LOT of possessives!)

And I still get a thrill, seeing a writer (or any creative) celebrating that first success! Because hey, cupcakes! Wheeeee!

Linda O'Connell said...

Sioux would be shocked to see FB posts. LOL

Your post is spot on. When I was a newbie I read every writer's magazine I could find. I didn't say BOUGHT, because I couldn't afford them. I read in big name book stores and took notes. I enjoy learning and usually discover something beneficial in books, on websites, or at conferences. I wrote flowery in the beginning. Now I know how to prune. My first great grandson has four scrap books. The other boys each have one incomplete. So, yeah, I get what you are saying.

Pat Wahler said...

Oh, yes indeed, this resonates with me. Both on the kid baby-book side and the writer side.

Thanks, Cathy, for handing out smiles to all of us old and jaded authors!

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Well, we have as many photos of the third as we do of the first and second. Because . . . the hubster told me the kids would COUNT to be SURE not one of them had more photos than the other. How did he know this? Because HE counted when he was little! Hahaha... So we were sure to take lots of pics of all of them, and it paid of the day I caught my youngest . . . counting. lol

Everything you've said is true. I fall into the been-doing-this-forever category, and jaded isn't the only word I'd use to describe my present state, but I guess it comes pretty darn close.

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