By Janet Fogg
Ah, yes, the terrible twos, when you’re negative, fearful, frequently unpredictable, and often overactive. But these are simply signs of a greater awareness combined with a lack of communication skills. One key to dealing with the terrible twos is structure, setting a schedule, reinforcing your own self-discipline. You have to put aside your frustration or you may exacerbate the situation. But what happens before you’re two?
Am I talking about human development or what happens when we write our first manuscripts? Both!
At 1-4 months movements are large and jerky, skin is easily irritated. Rooting and sucking reflexes are well developed.
At 4-8 months your sucking reflex becomes voluntary. You don’t understand “no” or “danger.” Drooling, chewing, and biting increases. And you’re finally able to hold a bottle.
At 8-12 months you can see distant objects and point at them. You begin to stand alone. You’ll reach for toys that are visible but out of reach, yet you’ll intentionally drop toys just to watch them fall.
At 12-24 months you take on a more adult-like appearance. You’ll fall often even though you can stand alone. You’ll put words and sounds together, but often use one word to convey an entire thought. (Me! Mine! Want!) And you’re exceedingly curious but many have a temper-tantrum when frustrated.
And then you’re two and your vocabulary is increasing though temper tantrums will likely peak. You’re impatient as you grasp that large crayon in your fist and scribble. You show signs of empathy and caring, understand that language is effective, yet it’s difficult to make choices and you want it both ways.
I had a thin skin while writing my first manuscript. Frustration claimed me and I did want to bite. At the time I didn't think my writing sucked, but in retrospect I know better.
I yearned for that publication toy, though it was completely out of reach.
My second manuscript was better, more adult-like. My voice started to appear. I could almost stand alone, though not quite. I continued to learn and grow.
It took manuscript number three before my language and voice became effective. My skills increased as I scribbled. And after countless revisions, including a complete overhaul of my plot, I finally sold that book.
During John Hart’s keynote speech at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I was reminded again of my first two manuscripts and the steep learning curve that accompanied them. John’s first two manuscripts are boxed and on the shelf. His agent asked to see them and John declined, said they’re not good enough.
John survived the terrible twos. He flourished. He didn’t get stuck in that crazy loop of repeatedly re-writing the same manuscript. Instead he wrote his second, learned from it, and then wrote his third, which sold. Boy, did it sell! The King of Lies spent multiple weeks on the New York Times bestseller List. And John won the Edgar Award for Best Novel for his next manuscript, Down River.
So if you feel the need to bite, or if you think your writing sucks, remember that it might just be the terrible twos. Everyone develops at a different pace and this is an important period. You have to be disciplined to transition from sippy cups to coffee mugs, from cradles to a bed. It’s a challenge to keep your balance when you’re learning to run, and to stop without falling. But doesn’t that big red crayon feel just right in your fist?
Next week join me for: There Can Be Only One.