Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Heartwarming Copy

Someone forwarded me the following writing opportunity:
I'm looking for some parents willing to share HAPPY sound bites about parenting.
The upcoming theme for Carolina Parent is about the joys of parenthood -- I think of this as the 'bliss issue'! So, I would love to gather some short quotes (and a photo -- ahh, there I've said it!) from local parents about The Most Important Thing I Learned from My Kid(s). I would love to have some dads as well as moms come forward here, too. Pretty please if you have an articulate hubby, send this his way. I'm ready to be wowed, heart-warmed and happy, aren't you? Please feel free to forward this on! What is the most important thing you learned from your kid(s)? (in 50 words or less!)

Ah . . . writing happy, heart-warming things are usually derided by the "serious" writers as "below" themselves . . . probably because there is so much bad writing in that vein. To self-styled writers, biting cyncism is real, and happy stuff is the realm of Hallmark schlock. But the truth of the matter is that it is much harder to write something genuinely happy, that is actually interesting to read. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all happy in the same way..." Happiness is boring. Especially other people's happiness. Other people's struggle, stumbles, and eventual against-all-odds victory -- well, that's a novel, and that's very interesting. But fifty words of just happiness? Oy.

I suppose it doesn't have to be all happy . . . there might be room for bittersweet. Fifty words is enough for some conflict, too . . . two lines of dialog plus a tight pithy capper. You can paint a picture in 50 words.

So what are the joys of parenthood? In the early years, especially, it's easy to lose track of it. (Otherwise, why would we need such columns in parenting magazines?) I was always more taken with the expressions of love that come out in the daily struggles, in spite of the lack of bubbly happiness. Like Robert Haydon's poem "Those Winter Sundays": "What did I know, what did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?"

I also find it interesting that they are expecting happy things from "the most important thing you learned from your kids." The most important things we learned were good, but not necessarily joyous. Hard truths . . . like, "you're never really in control" and "insecurity is forever." But joyous? Now you're down into unspeakable things, the intimacies of tiny hugs and snuggles, the blankness of wonder on a face staring out the window, the unreservedness of living a fresh new life. The utmost dependency turning into Someone Else. How can we explain it? The most important thing I learned is that there is nothing important about what I learn . . . compared to them.


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