I have a kid in college. Another one in high school. But I also have one on Amazon.com, and another on TNT. And I can’t control any of them.
It is an old trope that your creative endeavors are your children, but there is a lot of truth in that cliche. Like children, your book (or TV show) take up enormous amounts of your time and energy. You sweat bullets trying to form them into coherent entities that will be able to make their way in the world. You hope and pray that they get along with people, that the public likes them, that they lead fulfilling, happy, satisfying lives. And at this point I’m not even sure which I’m talking about — my real children or my fictional creations.
My real kids are doing fine. My fictional children — my latest novel, The King of Fear, and the TV show I recently wrote and co-executive produced, Legends — are in their initial launch stage. They are struggling to gain traction in a crowded marketplace. Legends got some rough overnight ratings numbers, and The King of Fear is still flying under most readers’ radar. People are buying the book, but slowly. Far too slowly for my tastes.
So I sit at home and track their progress and I worry. Just exactly as I do with my actual children. The parallels are both weird and ridiculous. Online, I can see how my kids did on tests, and whether they handed in their homework. I can track their attendance and how many credits they’ve accumulated toward graduation. The same holds true for my book and TV show. I can track book sales by the hour, and web sites now publish overnight Neilsen ratings like they’re the box scores in a baseball game. I know I shouldn’t look at any of these things — that they are beyond my control, and more to the point, really not important. The process of creation is important. The writing is what matters. The time you spend sitting with your kids over dinner is the real stuff. And yet…
I cannot help myself. I want to know how they are doing. I want to be proud, to boast and strut, to revel in good sales and A-minuses. Because the dirty truth of both writing and parenthood is that while yes, we do the things we do to make the world a better place, to bring joy to the earth and so on and so on, we also do it for the reflected glory those children and those creations bring us. Their success is our success. Their ratings uptick is our ratings uptick, and their A-minus is our A-minus. To deny that truth is to be dishonest. And you gotta be honest with your kids, just as you have to seek truth in your writing. Otherwise it’s all just nonsense.
So I will sit and track and worry and try to remember that I did the best I could when they were young, and now they are on their own in the world — and again, I’m really not sure which children I’m talking about. But that’s just fine.