Liam Cody, son of Paul Cody
On Having a Parent-Writer
Having a parent who writes book for a living is probably a bit like living with a crazy inventor. Brainstorms can hit the house at any hour of the day. When my dad is writing a book he keeps funny hours: sometimes he goes to bed at 6pm and wakes up at 2a. to start writing. As a kid, occasionally the coffee grinder would wake me up at a time when raccoons and possums were running the world outside. And then there are the questions, How many floors are in that building? What’s that place you like to hang out downtown? or Do you remember that girl with the iguana – what’s she doing now? When your dad is a writer you get a lot of funny questions about places you go or about people you know, or knew. They’re all fair game for characters or settings as they drift
through my dad’s head, come to him in a dream, or keep him up at night. He likes to write on the couch in our living room. You’d think that would be distracting for him, especially when we come down in the morning halfway through his writing session, but he wears these big red headphones to block out
noise. This set-up is convenient for him because he doesn’t have to listen to us until he wants one of his questions answered. He’ll shout a question while he’s still wearing the headphones as if I’m far away. I always answer really quietly so that he can’t hear me and has to take them off for a second to hear. I do this for my own amusement — it’s almost like he’s calling up from the basement where he’s resurrecting Frankenstein, but needs some key piece like, how many sections are there in the human heart? to really bring him to life.Even though writing a book isn’t always as consequential as creating a monster it can feel that way, according to my dad. He’s often really tired after writing and he gets headaches from concentrating for hours, and sometimes he’s so preoccupied
by what he’s writing he has insomnia. Plus, once you finish writing some thing there can be a crushing stress: who knows what other people will make of your writing or do with it. Maybe it is a monster.
Sometimes I’m jealous because my dad sets his own schedule, eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner whenever he wants to, decides when he’s going to work or not. On the other hand, writing is a hard job. It’s a stressful, a tough business, and
writers struggle with something essential: at the root of our desire to communicate, does the thing that resonates in my head also resonate in your head? In order to do this well, writers have to take in the world around them, they have to think about the needs and desires of other people, and they need a lot of determination to sit down every day and work diligently. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living with a writer it’s that the thing that drives you to do great work is internal and takes a lot of perseverance.
While it may not always be fun, I don’t think my dad would have it any other way. It’s hard to imagine him doing anything else. I imagine lightning bolts hitting our house and sparks crackling in the windows, but a lot of the time it looks as simple as a person sitting on a couch at 5am with a cup of coffee, typing intently away while possums scuttle past and every sane person sleeps. He has all these thoughts that have to come out somehow, all these observations of the world that need formulation. Perhaps lightning bolts really
are hitting our house and he’s a conductor in his red headphones, inviting the lightning as if he were offering a kite to a thunderstorm. What might seem magical in its finished state, a book that leaps into your heart, looks ordinary when you see it being done. But living with a writer makes me sure, still, there really is something cosmic and inexplicably magical afoot.