It Takes a Village to Write a Novel

I remember when Hillary Clinton first published It Takes a Village to Raise a Child and how in her book, and well-publicized book tours, she focused on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child’s well-being. The year was 1996, right around the time of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and before I had children of my own. I remember thinking to myself how wrong she was, that parents were the driving forces in the development of children, that they were the ones who could offset peer pressure, the ones children looked to for guidance above everyone else.

Fourteen years and three children later, I still believe that parents, for better or worse, impact a child’s well-being the most — a principle that was reinforced even further after having worked with Dr. Robyn Silverman on her book Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (to be published this fall by Harlequin) last year.

But…

I think of that book every time my friends and neighbors take my daughter to a Girl Scout event when I am not able to or when they drive my kids to an early morning class or summer rec. I think of it when my child’s teacher pulls me aside to tell me how my child is faring in class and how we can help. I think about it when I sit with my kids at the dinner table and we talk about their day, and they go on and on about their “favorite teacher” or a friend who did something courageous or a conversation they had with an adult other than myself or my husband.

As much as I like to think I shoulder all of the responsibility, there is a village raising my children. Yes, I’m doing the heavy lifting, but there are people often there to spot me, to cheer me on, and to show me how it’s done. It’s a beautiful thing.

Similarly, I have that kind of village around me as I write this novel. A former employer of mine used to say, “If I ever won an Academy Award, I would get up there and say, ‘I’d like to thank… me! Because I’m the one who did this. No one else.'”

I disagree. Yes, I’m doing the work. No doubt. But it would be dishonest to say that my work isn’t enriched by the world I live in. My daily interactions at the supermarket, at the train station, with friends, family, colleagues, are the only ways I can create fiction that is authentic. No novelist can be an island.

Plus, and perhaps most of all, I have a tremendous support network. I feel blessed by the amount of encouragement and advice I have received from friends and colleagues since I started writing this novel as well as this blog — the comments at the end of the posts, the cheers on Facebook, the emails and the phone calls that begin with “Hey, I’m not going to keep you, because you gotta write that thing, but…” You are my village. Your support not only warms my heart, but motivates me to keep going.

This morning, I woke up to the sweetest Facebook comment from my friend Michelle, who was the inspiration for this blog post (I had planned on writing something completely different). She wrote, in response to the failure of my time-management experiment yesterday: “BTW, the whole time thing: You do get more done than virtually anybody on the planet. So what if your style is Type A/DD? Secondly, I remember Johnny Carson saying that he was nervous every time he went out for the monologue, even after decades. Just because you’re great at it doesn’t mean it’s easy or that you won’t be afraid.”

Yes, it’s a beautiful thing.

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One thought on “It Takes a Village to Write a Novel

  1. I love reading about your life as a mother,writer, editor, novelist and friend to so many. You inspire me to want to get my work done. The funny thing is, now that my two sons are grown, I have more time than ever to write. I got more done when the boys were still at home. Maybe I could borrow some neighbor kids to come hang out at the house so I can write! :)

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