Friday, February 10, 2012

For the Love of God, Just Hit Send!

Miss Dawn's room, circa 1991

By Laura Spinella
I never cried when I dropped a kid off at nursery school. I was happy to help them pack for college, happier still to move them into a dorm room and say, “See ya!” You probably think this makes me a bit of a cold fish. But I don’t think so, having logged enough hours and put in enough time to figure out why. I always felt a great sense of accomplishment in my children becoming their own person.  That process began twenty years ago when I dropped Megan off in Miss Dawn’s room, continuing right through her college days and two more kids.  My theory even has proof, not only can she tie her own shoes, she’s also enrolled in a rigorous graduate program. Physically, emotionally, mentally, I know I had something to do with that, so yay for me in that regard. On the other hand, that’s where it ends. Sink or swim on your own.  Maybe I am a little different in that I don’t particularly view them as an extension of myself, but as their own person and I’m okay with that. 
Megan, post Miss Dawn's room
Children, for me, are NOT like books. I know that’s the opposite of what most writers say, their work invariably summoning the same emotions they feel for their children.  I get that, I really do. But as I prepare to hand off this new manuscript, I feel nothing but throat-clenching angst, hands wringing raw.  I never felt this way about a kid—even the one that had an entire colon removed (A page-turner for another time).  I think most of that boils down to control and responsibility. When it comes to human beings, even if they’re the ones you gave birth to, there are too many outside influences. Yes, it’s my job to oversee those influences, but eventually, whether it’s a temper tantrum over building blocks or the decision to invite a boy to college for the weekend, it’s up to them. I’ve always felt there was a little thing called consequences that should factor in.  You don’t get that luxury with a book.  Sink or swim, the consequences are mine. Children become adults who, if your gene pool isn’t too screwed up going in and you pepper them with enough common sense, in all probability will turn out fine. Try that with a book and you’ll soon discover that a party of one is providing all chromosomes and character traits. So the question becomes, is it enough? Did I do it right?  It will never think for itself; it will never answer the question. Agents and editors and the book buying public get to decide that one. And that’s where I get stuck.  For this manuscript to do anything more, become anything else, I have to let it go. Rationally, I’ve worked too long and hard to shove it in a desk drawer—Okay, so we all know it’s a USB drive, but the imagery of 370 dog-eared, coffee stained pages is far more evocative. I say rationally, but I think I left rational back on page 132, when on a third revision I looked Aidan Royce in the eye and said, “Well, finally, there you are!”
When I dropped Megan off at nursery school, I remember feeling excited for her, excited for the two and one-half hours that I was going to have to myself. As I work up the nerve to detach and send, I know the safety zone of this WIP will be gone. Empty hours will follow with a fair amount of dread, as I suspect I will only sit and wait for somebody else to tell me how it’s going to turn out.

Laura Spinella is the author of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. What would you risk for a love that is greater than honor or friendship or the passing of time? Best First Book, NJRWA, 2011,, Favorite Book of 2011.  Visit her at     


  1. Laura, I'm in that limbo now, too, with agent and editor holding onto the next Alison book. I find the only way to alleviate the stress is to work on another book (oh, and yell at my kids to do chores...that helps, too). I do see the connection between child rearing and writing as well but as you say, am much more reluctant to hit send than to send kid #1 off to college. Maggie

  2. I think you're exactly right, Laura. With a kid you can't go back and redo day #whatever to make them learn a different lesson. You can go back and rewrite, repolish page 5 a million times if you want (upping the angst of finally believing it's done).

    Great post!

  3. It's very difficult to let a bookchild out into the world. No matter how many times I go over it beforehand, I always find ways to say things better, or find little mistakes I missed before.

    The one good thing about kindle is if I do discover something later, it's easy to take it back, fix it and let it stumble out again into the book world.

    Morgan Mandel