Life in progress


Writing vs. Parenting: A Handy Comparison

Everything is connected.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the illustrious Neil deGrasse Tyson:

We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.

The underlying truth? The molecules, the bits and pieces that make you up, were present at the moment of the universe’s creation; they’ve just been rearranged millions of times over to cast you as the imperfect robot that you are. And that means, in a sort of beautiful way, that all things are connected. And if all the things are connected, that means all the things we do are connected.

Here, then, are 11 ways that writing is like parenting, and — more obviously — 11 ways in which they aren’t alike at all. Why 11? Why not just pick the top ten and go with those like a normal, order-conscious human?

Because this list goes to eleven.


Writing is like Parenting a Toddler

  1. You birth your creation, for all intents and purposes, out of sheer will and a bit of sweat.
  2. Either one is a good way to find out who you really are.
  3. Your creation will occasionally wake you up in the middle of the night for a bit of attention.
  4. You will find that your creation wanders into your thoughts without prompting at all hours of the day, regardless of whether you’re directly involved with it, or if it’s even around at the time.
  5. You will spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning up messes that your creation has made: dangling or unresolved plot lines, refrigerator empties onto the floor, characters behaving badly, toilet paper unspooled all over the house and watered with cranberry juice…
  6. Sometimes the best thing to do for your creation is to take it for a walk and get it some fresh air.
  7. Pretty much anybody can write a story or become a parent just by deciding they want to do it. Or sometimes even by accident.
  8. But writing a good story, much like raising a good kid, requires a heck of a lot more planning, thought, and hours than you can probably conceive of at the outset.
  9. Your story, like your toddler, will seem to have unexplainable mood swings all its own; you have to learn how to weather the storm.
  10. When it’s going well, you feel absolutely bulletproof.
  11. When it’s going poorly, you feel eaten by sharks.

Writing is not at all like Parenting a Toddler

  1. It’s pretty unlikely that any problem involving your child can be solved with any amount of ink or word processing power. In fact, adding ink to a situation involving your child is probably a recipe for disaster.
  2. Your story will never literally barf in your shoes.
  3. Or dunk your favorite tie in the toilet.
  4. Or paint with salsa on the carpet.
  5. Society is pretty forgiving to writers who drink. In a lot of cases, writers are almost expected to drink; it’s part of their craft. Parents, on the other hand…
  6. New parents get a free pass to show off pictures and talk about their kids at every opportunity. Nobody wants to see or hear about a writer’s unfinished story.
  7. If your story gets on your nerves, you can shut it down and forget about it entirely for a few days.
  8. Your story will only grow and improve with your active participation. Your kid will grow and learn things entirely on her own. (Usually the wrong things, if you’re not careful.)
  9. Your story probably won’t throw a tantrum in the toy aisle of the Target, earning you the sympathetic glances of fellow writers and the disapproving stares of non-writers.
  10. You only get to pick your kid’s name once.
  11. If you screw your story up, you can throw it out and rewrite it from scratch as many times as you want.

There you have it. A perfectly scientific comparison of two things that totally make sense together. Bear this information in mind when you’re deciding whether you would rather be a writer or a parent. Because you obviously can’t do both at the same time.