Most writers have day jobs, which feed into their writing. Every Friday I’ll be asking a writer what unexpected lessons their day job has taught them about the craft.
This week, I asked writer and father Noel Coughlan to share his take on what being a dad taught him about writing. Though fatherhood's not exactly a "day job", it's a major occupation, as any parent can attest.
Noel Coughlan is an Irish writer of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. His publications so far include "The Golden Rule Duology", "A Bright Power Rising" and "The Unconquered Sun".
You can find him on his website http://photocosm.org, on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/photocosm, or on Twitter @noel_coughlan.
Noel: When my daughter was born, I knew it would change my life, but I didn’t appreciate just how much it would change my writing. Here are five lessons I have learned from fatherhood.
Lesson #1: Don’t be precious about your writing ritual
As a father, I became responsible for a living, breathing individual whose life doesn’t fit to writing schedules. I mind our daughter after school so I try to cram as much writing into my mornings as possible. But school holidays, sporadic illnesses, chores, and life in general can swallow up that nice block of time. So it’s important to be adaptable. If I can’t fit in my writing in the morning, I sneak it in the evening. I type something on my phone if I must to get some writing done. (It’s probably why I wear glasses now.) There’s no set time, no special place, no essential routine. All that’s needed to write is a (somewhat) clear head and something to record words.
Lesson #2: Learn to see the world from a child’s perspective again
This, of course, is my personal experience. My childhood was a distant blur and I was blind to its impact on my writing. After all, when you are a child, particularly a young one, you’re not really taking many notes of your experiences for your future writing career. Spending time with my daughter has not simply introduced me to her childhood but reacquainted me with mine.
Lesson #3: There’s a lot to learn from children’s stories
If you must read the same stories a couple of hundred times (and you must), put your newfound familiarity with these texts to good use. Not only are they a great way to hone your oratorical skills, but they help tune your ear to awkward sentences in your writing. Plus they provide very simple story structures to study in depth.
Lesson #4: Let your fears inspire you
To be a parent is to worry. Your fears can be divided into two types: those within your power to control and those you can’t. Face them in your writing.
Lesson #5: Don’t forget to live as well
If the weather is good and the tides are favourable, head for the beach. Obviously, living in Ireland, this is just good sense. It’s a country not known for beach weather. Generally suitable warm, sunny days can be counted on one hand in any given year so it’s best to make use of them when you can.