Not too long ago, that is, during a span that is counted by decades, but feels like the passage of mere weeks, my children were small in physical stature, saw me as their hero, and lived at home. BH, these days, contrariwise, some of them are taller than me, one of them has, herself, become a mom, and most of them live in their own apartments.
As per my still being their hero, that status is on hold since my issue are in the emerging adolescent stage of psychosocial growth, i.e. in the phase of life in which they “know everything.” Today, their champions are themselves. Tomorrow, when they move forward to the next developmental juncture, they’ll again appreciate the enhancements that their mother can make available to them.
For now, I’m happy to be their sounding board, as well as to be the address to which they direct their rants. By phone, via email, or through face-to-face contact, currently, we talk about: university tuition, apartment rentals, modes for squaring career with schooling or parenting, and job searches. Typically, not one among my scions asks me what I’m up to, in general, or, more specifically, how I’m faring professionally B’ayin tova, that I am overwhelmed with book contracts is nowhere on their radars.
I’m the mom. They’re the kids; our focus needs to remain on them.
In fairness, when they were growing up, my beloveds were treated to very few stories about my academic exploits, and to even smaller numbers of accounts about my publishing successes, both my short works and my book-length projects, included. Additionally, those buds of mine heard little about my invitations to judge writing contests or my nominations for writing awards.
Rather, my child-centered rhetoric was concerned with matters such as my calls for my children to: clean their rooms, take out their trash, and wash their dishes. I don’t think they realized, either, that I’d been on the editorial staff of various scholarly and of various literary journals, so busy had I been with dictating, to them, good practices for completing homework and for avoiding bullies.
As a mom, for the most part, I focused my childrearing on ways in which family members ought to live their lives and not on tributes bestowed on any of us. There were many awards among us, since in a good eye; some of my sprogs are social adept, all are intellectually empowered, and all are creative.
All things considered, given the emphases of my nurturing, those kids still consistently check in with me on how they are faring in their struggles with various middot, and, occasionally, ask about my health. Hardly ever do they inquire about my vocation.
Although I should be grateful that my boys and girls integrated my values, and that they care more about me as a person than as a professional, I’m not beyond seeking their aid with my business goings-on. These days, from time to time, I look to them to help me separate the bunkum from the substance in my writing.
Informal viewers, as epitomized by any group of individuals who share, over time, an emotional bond, can afford greater insight into the particulars of the verbal craft than can the insights of emotionally distanced audiences. Yet, because my youngins are only nominally invested in my publications, they are able to identify, and then to articulate, my work’s deficits. Keep in mind that whereas it’s tough to be a writer without people to buy one’s books or without publishers to broadcast them, it’s that much tougher to be a writer who lacks a coterie that is willing to speak frankly about one’s work.
Though none among my kin would admit as much, similar to other wordies’ children, whether by osmosis or by prophylactic analyses of their progenitor, those offspring have acquired atypical philological power. What’s more, they use that influence to help insure that their parent considers not only the quality of her writing, but also its impact.
In brief, my babes have demanded that my manuscripts yield function. When young, my descendants posited that if they had to relinquish their electronic devices or otherwise pause in their navel gazing to read my compositions, they had better be wowed. Today, they demand the same, albeit the interruptions are in their participation in NaNoRiMo or in grading high school English papers.
More to the point, when my pages are not sufficiently sweet as to provide my heirs with fluffy, happy sentiments, it’s mandatory that they are sufficiently evocative as to cause cogitation over civilization’s glut of unspeakable actions. My kin insist that I write serviceably. Plus, those kids want my characters, settings, dialogues, narrative voices, moods, and themes to resonate with them.
Sons and daughters can be more selective critics than exclusive publishing houses or elite reviewers because they are not compromised by profit targets or popularity polls. In fact, every now and then, my brood, analogous to the most tsundere-like patrons, starts out cold, even hostile, to my work, but, over time, becomes more receptive, even eager for it. Other times, they’re downright enthusiastic to the extent that they remember an imaginary world, or a pretend friend, that I created years ago, and urge me to develop them further.
Despite the regularity, or lack thereof, with which my adult children comment on my writing, and despite the advantage their sporadic observations lend me, at times, their reflections are too elevated to be useful. Shaping books per ideals can mean shaping unmarketable commodities.
Actual readers’ habits differ from those of people who love an author. More exactly, creators, who invite their dear ones to deliver feedback, need to find a balance between putting forward the sort of products that their relatives enjoy and putting forward more universally sought goods. Casual consumers don’t necessarily want books that overtly style moral codes or that baldly offer problem-solving models. Instead, regular purchasers prefer reads that grant them access to information, to entertainment, to persuasion, or to some mix thereof; mental exertion’s not popular among most buyers.