At least, for me it does. From the moment I became pregnant, my life was a flurry of books, websites, magazines, and online forums. I read voraciously, wanting to be sure that I did everything just so.
Trouble is, there isn’t exactly one way to get the job done. You have all sorts of theories on just about everything you do. What to eat and how to exercise when you’re pregnant, how to labor and give birth, how the kid sleeps, eats, learns, poops; the information is endless.
Long before the little man was old enough for me to be concerned about it, I read up on potty training. I purchased a potty chair when he was just over a year and started to introduce the idea to him. At first, he seemed to think it was a cool new addition, all bright and shiny and red.
Then, he lost interest. As we got closer to an age where I thought potty training could begin, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Trying to get him to even be in the same room with the potty resulted in blood-curdling screams. If the house next to me wasn’t empty, it’s likely someone would have called the authorities.
So, I gave up. If he wanted to spend his future in adult diapers, so be it.
Then, just a few days ago, he came up to me.
“Mama. I want the train on your butt.”
First off, my kid needs to work on his pronouns. But the important thing here is that he was requesting underwear. I grabbed the Thomas the Train undies and explained to him that he shouldn’t pee on Thomas. The first day, he would do his little dance, I’d lead him to the potty, and while he was reluctant to follow, once he was there, he did what had to be done.
Today is day three. We haven’t had a single accident since he put that train on his butt. Or changed over to the Star Wars on his butt.
Which made me think…potty training and writing aren’t all that different.
There’s a lot of advice out there. You don’t need to take it all. A lot of advice givers present their words as an absolute way to do things. With potty training, I was beginning to think I was missing something because some of the advice I tried wasn’t working. The reality is that different methods work for different kids. When it came down to it, I had to take the information given and trust my instincts on what was best for us.
There is a lot of information out there for writers, from the craft to social media and blogging. While some can be helpful, it starts to become noise after a while. “Write what you know. Don’t write what you know. Blog, tweet, bleat! Shut off your computer! Give away your books. Don’t give away your books.” It can be pretty overwhelming. The reality is, no one person can give you the advice that is perfect for you. Take it in. Then learn to trust your instincts rather than look to one source as the authority.
Don’t push* it. When I tried to make the little guy use the potty, he only resisted more. He knew he wasn’t ready. Trying to make him go anyway just upset him more.
While goals are great when you are writing, as is a schedule, sometimes we push too hard. Writing 500 words every day is great, but if you aren’t feeling inspired, is beating yourself up to get that 500 really productive? I participated in NaNoWriMo this past year for the first time. I reallly enjoyed it for the first 30k words. I was on track and inspired and the story was moving. Then I hit a point where the next scene wasn’t really working. For a couple of days, I tried to write just for the sake of the word count. I hated it. Sure, I may have produced the skeleton of something good during those days, but it made me want to walk away from the story entirely. Don’t force your writing.
Pay attention. The little man asking to wear underwear was my first sign that he might be ready to make the transition, but I knew he wasn’t going to suddenly walk up to me and ask to use the potty. I had to watch him like a hawk that first day. I had to wait for “the dance”. Every time I saw the dance, I took him to the potty.
Have a dream that you can’t stop thinking about? Overhear a conversation you can’t shake? That dream might be your next novel. A conversation in a coffee shop could be that scene you’ve been having a hard time with. A mysterious character in line at the gas station might fill the physical description of your next character. If you are too busy hanging out in your head, worrying about word counts, you might miss great opportunities for your writing.
Celebrate and reward. While I was disappointed when little man wouldn’t have anything to do with the potty, or when he’d pee all over the place in our earlier attempts to train him, I never berated him. Now, when the little guy pees, he gets to hear what a great job he did. Sometimes, we go play with his letters after. A few times, he got to have a piece of cookie. Even when he doesn’t pee, I cheer him on for trying.
I hear a lot of writers beating themselves up. They didn’t socialize enough on Twitter that week. They only wrote one blog post. They didn’t meet their word count. They haven’t heard back after sending out a query. How about remembering what you did do? Maybe you didn’t crank out 1000 words, but you wrote something. Maybe you didn’t write at all that day, but you worked out a scene in your head. Sure, we don’t want to excuse ourselves from the work of writing, but if we are always down on ourselves for what we didn’t accomplish, we risk turning our love into a drudgery.
It will happen when it will happen. I’ve been in disbelief the past few days. I went from a kid who seemed genuinely afraid of the idea of a potty, to a kid who hasn’t had a single accident. My mom simply says, “He decided he was ready.”
When your story feels like it just won’t come together, just remember, it may not be ready. You may even have to walk away from it for a little while. Give it time. It will happen. At a certain point, your story will be asking for “the train on your butt”.
When it does, I’m sure you’ll do the same little victory dance and cheer the little man does after he pees.
“Yay! I did it! I did it!”
*I’m 12. Saying push in the context of potty training makes me giggle.