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Ten Ways Writing a PhD or Book is NOT Like Having a Child

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It pisses me off when people tell me that writing a book (or a PhD thesis) is JUST like having a child. I'm not entirely sure why. Yes, I get that, like a child, you have to let a book go and send it into the wide world. And sure, like raising a child, it's hard work, and exhausting, and you're never sure you're doing it right. I've done all three. I've written a PhD thesis (submitted, defended, and DONE). I've written a novel (OK, a first draft which maybe two people have seen. But still). And I'm raising two children. And here are ten ways in which writing a book is not like having a child.

1. A book doesn't talk back. Yes, characters in a novel often talk back. That's in your head, though. Not outside of it. And characters are usually much more reasonable than children.

2. You can quit writing if you've had enough. Sure, you can give up your child. But that happens much less often than people giving up on writing a book.

3. You can take a break from writing. If you want a break for a year, or a week, or even a day, you can turn your laptop off or close your notepad. Yes, I leave my kids with babysitters. It's not the same thing. Also, and similarly to point #2, you can decide this book doesn't work for you anymore and start another one. Not recommended with kids.

4. It doesn't take as long to write a book as it does to raise a child. Honest.

5. There's much less guilt involved with writing a book. If you do it wrong the worse that can happen is it won't get published. Or it's a bad book. Sure, it sucks. Not as much as damaging your kid, though.

6. A book doesn't get lice. Well, not often. I hate lice treatments with passion. My kids do, too.

7. A book doesn't appreciate you. A book is an inanimate object. It's not that kids appreciate everything you do, but you do get a "Thank you" every once in a while.

8. A book doesn't love you back. A book is an inanimate object. I understand that some people feel deep emotions towards objects sometimes. I can't do it. I enjoy the projects I work on. I'm passionate about them, about the challenges they give me, about the ideas behind them. But I don't love them, because they are things, not people. My kids, however, I love. And it's great, because they love me back.

9. You can have complete control over a book. I guess you could have complete control over a child, but at some point it becomes illegal. Plus, they tend to rebel against that (see point #1). Hard as we might try, as much as we might want to, our children are out of our control. The best way to deal with it is just to accept it and move on.

10. A book is always, essentially, a part of you. What I mean by that is that ultimately, a book comes out of your head. It can't be anything else but you. You can collaborate on a book, sure. Then it comes out of two brains rather than one. But a book won't ever be an interesting person to talk to. My kids still need help spreading cream cheese on their sandwiches, but they are interesting people to talk to. Something, by the way, I'm thankful for each and every day.


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