As a writer one must adopt the knack to take criticism positively and use it constructively. It is a difficult feat sometimes, especially when you’ve toiled so hard on a project only to have to revamp and once again revise, revise, revise. Nevertheless the writer knows what must be done to achieve the overall fulfillment they will eventually reap from their work. And this entire process, I’ve come to realize, is quite similar in the long journey of parenthood.
Just recently I’ve decided to expand my reach by submitting a few short fiction stories to some literary magazines. I’ve had a severe love affair with science fiction and the fantasy genres for as long as I can remember so I thought it was high time to send some of my own fictitious tales of escapade out into this big literary world. For weeks I poked and prodded at the ten short stories I had decided were worthy for submittal. I read and reread the overall storylines; I cut characters and added more interesting ones. I custom-made my sentence structure; I was witty but don’t worry not overly so. I murdered, I schemed, and I plotted (in the stories of course) and I repented over none of it. By the end, these tales I had created were a part of me. They live in the depths of my mind and their characters will forever survive in the warm caverns of my imagination.
Yet some do not see it that way. This morning as I argued with Sophie over why she must brush her extremely knotted hair I glanced at my phone to see I had received an email from one of the magazines I submitted to a few weeks ago. My heart gave a little skip but immediately thereafter faltered. I opened the email to find yet another rejection letter. I’ve lost count currently but if I had to guess I would say it was about the twelfth or thirteenth, “sorry not for us” reply I’ve gotten.
This however is all okay, and that is because of one simple quote I’ve taken on as my personal mantra, “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Leave it to one of the great “king’s” of literature to craft such a vast beacon of hope for aspiring writers everywhere.
Now all of this talk about rejection has started me thinking about how similar the feelings that arise from parenting can be. We work so damn hard to be the mothers, fathers, and caregivers we have to be. We laugh with them, rack out brains to come up with awesome activities to keep them stimulated. We love them unconditionally. We’d murder, scheme and plot for them if it meant their safety and happiness. And yet we expect nothing in return.
Much like writing it can sometimes be a thankless job. We will collect unwanted, unwarranted commentary from our peers because they would do it a different way. We gobble up the criticism from the experts and call it constructive because what on earth else are we supposed to do with that information?
Parents and writers are constantly on the search for recognition, and yet in reality it is so seldom that we find it. This morning after I received this particular email I quietly retreated to my bedroom. I once again thought about that famous quote from Mr. King and it made me realize that it not only applies to the rejection we feel as writers but also the rejection we can feel in everyday life. It occurred to me that no matter what has got you down, the key is to keep moving forward.
Yes sometimes our parenting endeavours can feel unappreciated. It is a job we do out of candid love rather than for acknowledgement or praise. And even when the girl child refuses to brush her hair or the boy child tells you you’re the worst mom ever for not letting him play the tablet, you will still carry on.
We do this because of that tiny voice inside reminding us to always do best for the small humans we are bringing up in this world.
And one day, just like my creative writing, our hard work and effort will pay off and we will hear the words, “You did great, thank you” and just like that we will fail to remember how complicated it once was.
Lindsay Brown is a Sylvan Lake mother of two and freelance columnist.