While spending this last year working on a manuscript, I noticed that there are a lot of parallels between writing and being a parent. Books don’t write themselves. No matter how much a writer is inspired, no matter how much she may feel that she is simply channeling her muse, the words don’t appear on the page until she writes them. Her characters may well come to life in her imagination, speaking to her, compelling her, demanding things of her, but ultimately, SHE decides what to say and how to say it, what to keep and what to delete, where to begin and where to end.
If she is lucky, a writer can rely on others for feedback and support, but still, she is the one— the only one— who can do the work. And it has to be convincing. She can’t be tentative. Even though she and her story are not one and the same, she is the creative, guiding force that infuses it with life.
At the Book Writing World, Elizabeth Stark says that there are three aspects that must come together in order for a writer to successfully write a book. She calls these three elements the Storyteller, the Brain and the Athlete. The Soryteller is the creative force, the imagination, the seer of possibilities. The Brain is the organizer, the editor, the one who decides what works and what doesn’t. The Athlete is all about practice. It is the one who drives the writer to sit down every day and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. This group forms the classic triumvirate of Heart, Head and Hands, or Feeling, Thinking and Willing. A writer may engage in any one of these, but in the end— to reach the end— she must have all three working together in some sort of balance.
We parents, too, must find a balance among these three aspects:
The mind is the thinker, the planner, the one who determines the long-term goals and the more daily expectations. It holds up each challenge against a template of past experience. Our knowledge and understanding allow us to act instead of reacting and give us direction so that we are not merely blundering nor blustering. The mind allows us to look through the lens of the world and see our children as they really are.
The heart is our emotional self, which keeps us abreast of the currents and ripples that our more logical mind might overlook. Our emotions are our feedback system. They tell us if our plan is working or if adjustments need to be made. Our heart allows us to act with warmth and love. It allows us to look at the world through our children’s eyes. It allows us not only to accept, but embrace, the full being of our children.
The one needs the balancing effect of the other. The combination of knowledge and love gives us a more complete understanding of our children and inspires us as we help them learn to live in the world given who they are. And just as writers must have the will to write about what they think and imagine, parents must have the will to act based on what they know and feel.
That sum of those three parts is a parent’s “authority.” In today’s world, many parents are uncomfortable with the concept of authority, and this is largely due to their lack of understanding about the role each of the three parts must play in balance between the other two. Children thrive in the presence of calm and confident authority. I encourage parents to embrace their authority, to claim it as the positive creative force that it is, not as their right, but as their duty. I encourage parents to put the “author” back in authority.