Kids. They change your life.
I’ve never had a kid, but I’ve created stories that meant a lot to me. I’ve nurtured characters and tales and watch them grow from the pinprick of an idea into universes with themes and order and understanding. And each one meant so much to me, not just because it was a part of me, but because I got to be a part of it. Until, eventually, it left my hands to begin its own life out in the world. My children have only barely moved out of the basement, but they’re getting there. They’ve grown up.
By the way, if you think I’m a dick for comparing raising a living being to banging my head against the keyboard in a Starbucks, then… you’re right, probably. But still, without a rugrat of my own, I can only equate the experience to one that feels pretty darn similar to me. My stories are both an extension of me and their own creatures in the long run of their life in the world and the people who encounter it. They are my pride and joy.
A while back, I wove a novel called Uncanny Valley, the central concept of which was the idea of stories taking on living shapes and forms. I have yet to revisit it, though the idea still holds a certain power for me. Stories have presence, and like any living thing, they are shaped by how they’re perceived and why they’re conceived. They exist in the relationship they have with their creators and with the people they touch, known and unknown. They have personalities of their own; if they could talk, their voices would be distinct. Our stories, our extensions, our children, can come across as matter-of-fact or snobbish or brooding or silly. And though through writing, I take a much more direct hand in the formation of that persona, it’s hard to deny the supreme impact a parent has on their child as well. And that kind of power is scary: to have so much power, and yet be so powerless over the result. To fly blindly, hoping you haven’t screwed up too much.
Uncanny Valley became something very personal for me. When I let the story move through me, though I had outlined in advance, I was surprised at how raw and deep it went and where it took me. It exposed not just my ideas, not just my pride in everything I wanted to share, but also my terrors. It was a living and breathing mirror that held more power than a 664KB document should. Because it was more than that, especially to me. It was something I was trying to nurture and raise, and the idea that I had instilled so much that was good, but also so much pain, broke my heart. And to do it over and over with each child I create is sometimes too much to bear.
I wonder how much I would put myself into my kid. What lessons I would impart, how I would help them, and how I would unavoidably screw them up. But the thing about a kid is that if you can do right by them, then you hope they will, in turn, do right by you. And writing is just me talking to me. I only have to trust myself. To trust someone else entirely, that takes courage. A leap of faith. And a shared history.
… So maybe it’s only a little different.