I’ve never actually given birth (my daughter is adopted) but from what I’ve heard and read, there are some similarities to writing a book—which I have done. Of course, there are many huge differences. Discounting cramped hands and a neck and shoulders locked in “flight or fight” position despite ergonomic equipment and regular massages, giving birth to a book doesn’t usually bring much in the way of physical pain. And true, your book, once delivered, doesn’t require regular diaper changes, and won’t eventually cast withering glances at you when you do something uncool. But just like a child, your book only truly belongs to you so long as it is not yet in the world. Once it has left your body, after a long process of struggle and labor during which you have alternatively cursed and cried and, perhaps, required some numbing anesthesia (pimento cheese and “Dance Moms” worked best for me), your literary baby is no longer yours to dream about. What will she look like? What will her future be? Will others embrace her warmly or handle her roughly? Will others love her the way that I do? The time for fantasy is over. Like a real baby, your literary child has become a separate being and will have a life of its own—a life that you cannot bend to your will, no matter how hard you try.
Of course, the timetables for gestation and early infant development are hugely different. The Creation of Anne Boleyn took six years for the DNA to become fully formed flesh, and the birth itself is taking over a year. Of course, this is because I’m doing it the old-fashioned way—with a press rather than a home-birth and straight to an e-book—and like other methods of birthing, may eventually become obsolete. I hope not—for reasons that I’ll save for an editorial some day. But the old-fashioned way certainly requires patience!! You may be told, mid-way through the pregnancy, that you need more exercise (my original editor, an inspired midwife, packed me off to England to do interviews.) You may think you are about to give birth several times, only to be sent back home and told it was a false labor. During the last stages, you are cranky and temperamental, you eat too much, you cry easily, you get into fights with your loved ones. And finally, when the baby emerges—at first only seen by those close to you–she is still a mess, covered with your blood and requiring a good clean up before she can go out in public.
And then, even though she is all tidy, you have to wait a long time before you can present her to the world. And there’s still so much work to do!!! Permissions to obtain, author questionnaires to fill out, proposed outfits (covers) to decide among, and birth announcements (blurbs) to be arranged (a process during which you try not to think about how many such requests you have turned down yourself). And then there will be copy-editing (largely a matter of making sure the child learns to speak in grammatical sentences) which can be tedious and contentious if you are attached to your own odd ways of putting things. Page proofs!! Public Relations! What to do when the rights to the illustration you really, really want can’t be obtained! Decisions about this, decisions about that. And most difficult: continuing about your business while you wait…. and wait…. and wait.
It’s the waiting—where I am at now, with a March 2013 pub date–that’s the killer. As when you are expecting a baby (or awaiting an adoption, as I was when Cassie was born), it’s hard to think about anything else, or DO anything else. This stupendous event is on the horizon, and they expect you to continue to go to work? To have normal social interchange (i.e. not about your baby/book) with friends? To brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed occasionally? And worst of all, to WRITE ANYTHING ELSE? I don’t wanna!!! I can’t!!!! I won’t!!! And so, the articles that I am committed to write stare at me accusingly, glowering in their pre-conception state: “So you think now that this baby is coming, we can just be ignored?”I’m struggling to concentrate on anything except my two babies: the book one and the human one (now thirteen) to whom I remain faithful. She will always be more important. As for my husband, he’s fine with my state of distraction; the Tour de France is on the television.
And, as with many pregnancies, although just a few months ago I couldn’t imagine ever going through this again, the idea for my next book is already beginning to gestate. She’s just a little bubble of thought at this point, a “hmmmm…” more than a plan. Even so, it startles me to think that I actually am imagining bringing another book into being.
Socrates/Plato believed that some of us get pregnant in body, and others in mind. The ancient duality is false, of course, for pregnancy is not mindless and many women manage, quite successfully, to birth both kinds of babies. I once mourned the fact that I was not able to be one of them. Not anymore. I have my wonderful Cassie, and a new book baby soon to jump out of my arms and into the world. May the world treat both of them warmly!!