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June 6, 2011

Robert Dugoni: Fatherhood: The Write Stuff

Posted by Anonymous

Robert Dugoni’s David Sloane series has branded him “The undisputed king of the Legal Thriller.” Tomorrow, on June 7th, the fourth in the series --- MURDER ONE --- hits book stores, much to the excitement of his readers. To kick off’s Father’s Day Blog Series, Robert is sharing his experience of fatherhood, and the personal philosophy that caters to both the craft of writing and the craft of parenting.

Photo: Robert and his kids, Joe and Catherine

rsz_1with_joe_and_catherine.jpgHalf a dozen years ago I awoke to my two kids jumping on the bed in our Florida hotel. “Let’s go. Dad, let’s go,” they repeated, laughing.

We had arrived at Disney World late the night before, had a quick bite and went to sleep with only a quick peek out the window at the twinkling lights of the happiest place on Earth.
With all the travel arrangements and logistics getting out of town I had little opportunity to consider the actual vacation before that moment. As my head bounced up and down on my pillow and my daughter squealed with delight and my son tried to touch the ceiling with his fingertips, I had a peculiar epiphany. Though I had already been a father eight years, I distinctly recall realizing: This is your job. You are their Dad. This is your responsibility.
When my own father passed away on Father’s Day three years ago, I had a similar epiphany. I realized I was no longer the kid. I was the Dad. More to the point, I realized my children’s happiness was largely my responsibility. I brought both these human beings into the world (okay, actually my wife gets most of the credit for that) and it was our job to give them each every opportunity to succeed, as my father and mother had done for me. But I also realized that, as a good friend of mine likes to muse, “When you buy a car, or a boat, a vacuum, even a radio, it comes with a detailed owner’s manual with instructions on what to do and what not to do. But there is no owner’s manual that comes with a child. ”
For this reason I have often found myself telling Joe, the oldest, “You’re the guinea pig. I make all my mistakes with you.” Luckily he’s somehow managed to survive. At 14 he’s blessed with good looks and an infectious personality and easy going manner that makes him well liked among his peers. Yes, he takes after his mother. Catherine, my 11 year old, has never taken a bad picture, and is fiercely competitive, intense and independent. In other words, their personalities couldn’t be more opposite. So, much of what I’ve learned raising Joe hasn’t necessarily translated to Catherine.
Over the years, I’ve developed a nice career teaching writing and speaking at conferences and I’ve come up with a philosophy which has served my writing career well. It started out as “Mastering the Three P’s: Perseverance, Persistence and Patience.” Then I added a fourth, Prayer, a fifth, Perspective, and most recently a sixth, Passion. My theme is that a writer needs each P to succeed.
So, I have come to learn, does a father.
Here is how learning the craft of writing helped me become a better Dad.
1. Perseverance – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It isn’t easy being a novelist or a father. Just when I think I’ve hurdled the final obstacle to success, another is in my path. What am I going to do, quit? There’s too much at stake and too much potential for positive results if I keep at it and jump each hurdle one at a time.
2. Persistence – Sometimes you have to write a novel to learn how to write a novel. Every novelist has a manuscript or two locked in a drawer. We don’t have that luxury with our children but the same principle applies. I’ve had to raise a child to learn how to raise a child. Along the way I’ve tried to acknowledge my mistakes so that when faced with the same, or similar, situation I can do better the next time, each time striving to get it right. As the old saying goes, there is no substitute for experience.
3. Patience – The really good books are like a fine red wine. They take time to develop and reach their full potential. So do children. The process can’t be rushed. Their brains and bodies only develop so fast, and God gives each different gifts. So I try to give each novel and each of my children the attention and love they deserve, and to nurture the gifts God gave them so they can reach their full potential.
4. Prayer – Sometimes it seems I do everything right and things still don’t work out the way I thought they should. This is classified under the “Life isn’t fair” category. And it isn’t. These are the moments I’ve had to recognize that I can only do my best and I can only control those things within my control. I put the rest in God’s hands. Every day I ask him to watch over both my children when I can’t be there to guide them.
5. Perspective – At times I want a book to do so well I don’t see the forest for the trees. That’s when the “woe is me” sets in. It’s at these dark moments when it’s really good to have a spouse, partner, or friend slap us silly and remind us that we did, after all, choose to be a writer, just as we chose to be fathers. Nobody put a gun to my head to do either. I did both out of love. It’s important to stop every once in a while and count my blessings and realize that ninety percent of my career has been great, and I am blessed with two kids who are truly wonderful 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent tends to be trivial stuff not worth worrying about.
6. Passion –The things I love the most are the things I am most passionate about. And the things I am most passionate about are the things most likely to do well. I am most passionate about writing and my family. I try to love them fiercely every day and I’ve found this is usually not only enough, it is really what my kids want most, to know they’re loved and protected and will always have a place where they can be safe and warm…
Though they wouldn’t turn down another trip to Disney World either.