Friday, February 3, 2012

How Making A Book Is Like Making A Baby

By (the almost five months’ pregnant) Susan McBride

I’m following Maggie Barbieri’s lead this week. On Wednesday, she talked about how dieting and writing are linked. Since I’m not dieting (um, quite the opposite) and am lacking in fresh ideas to blog about, I thought I’d discuss how similar pregnancy and writing are. Yes, I’m serious. Not that writing books gives anyone swollen ankles, sleepless nights, or giant bellies (wait a minute, yes, it can!); but there are lots of ways conjuring up a literary baby and creating a human baby are quite alike. 

1) Both take a certain amount of time to gestate. Sure, there are authors who write books in two weeks, but I’m not one of them. And, honestly, does anyone not believe that those authors are aliens? Most of us need a period of months—for some, years—to let an idea percolate and write it up as a proposal with the requisite sample chapter before we present it to our agents (who in turn show our editors). Once we’ve got the thumbs-up (picture getting a plus sign on a pregnancy test stick), we focus on little else but the story, growing it little by little. If we take care of ourselves and don’t do anything reckless, our babies can develop into something viable and real.

2) There are aches and pains along the way. Who hasn’t gotten physical pains while toiling away on their latest opus? Like a backache, stiff neck, or cramp in the calf (or in the brain)? Just like with pregnancy, writing can be hard on the body which is why it’s always good to get plenty of rest and take lots of breaks. (FYI, breaks are those periods when writers get up from their chairs to stretch, vacuum, do laundry, run to the grocery store, break up a fight between cats, call our mothers, and so on.)

3) It’s impossible not to talk about your baby’s progress. Once you feel secure that your baby has progressed to a certain point (say, 100 pages, which we'll call "the end of the first trimester"), you can't help gushing to your friends about it. You thrive on encouragement and advice. Yapping about the last chapter you figured out gives you a high, like sharing the news of your baby's heartbeat. You're even compelled to gossip about how a secondary character—patterned after your crazy aunt Martha—has become an unapologetic scene stealer. And if you have an author-friend who's on the same deadline as you, you constantly compare the size of your bump...um, your word count.  Yep, writers and mommies, we're a competitive lot.

4)  You worry about how your baby will be perceived by the world.  Does any expectant mother not have twinges of anxiety about whether or not her child will do well in life?  Will he or she have friends, be accepted?  It's the same with a book.  Even during the writing process, you have moments where you think, "Will anyone else appreciate this?  Will it be loved or hated?"  Vicious reviews are like bullies.  Writers--like moms--know they're out there.  You just have to hope and pray that the meanest ones stay away from your kid.

5) There's no elation quite like reaching "The End."  When you’re finally done—when you’ve given that final push—all you want to do is smile…and cry…and sleep…and imagine the day when you’ll see your baby all dressed up in a pretty cover—I mean, in an adorable onesie. You can’t wait to show off your amazing creation everywhere you go and post photos ad nauseum on Facebook. Then you can look back at all the months it took to bring your baby into the world and think, “Yep, it was all worth it.”

10 comments:

  1. Brilliant! You're right...writing and gestating are very similar life events. I'm in my second trimester right now, which in pregnancy speak, is supposed to be so joyous, but in writing speak, just means the "middle"...and we all know how hard it is to write the middle. Great post, Susan! Maggie

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  2. LOL! While I wasn't one of those, I know there are a fair amount of pregnant people whoe want it "to be done" once they hit the last four weeks. Oh now true that is with books, too. Nice job, Susan!

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  3. Maggie, yep, there are definitely challenges in the second trimester, too! I'm just getting through that period right now, both with literary baby and real baby! Glad you liked the post. :-)

    Laura, thanks! This was a fun one to write (and, for some reason, very easy...hmm). ;-)

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  4. LOL! Susan, I think you are on to something. BTW, your author "breaks" sound exactly like mine. I'm about to take my "break" to the grocery store!

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  5. Have a fun break, Maria! I just got back from mine (bank and grocery store!). ;-)

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  6. Very entertaining post and so true! Thanks for the laugh and best of luck itch both "babies"!

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  7. Oops that was supposed to read best of luck! Sorry for the typo. . .

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  8. Very reasonable parallels . . . and I love the photo of the baby on the books!

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  9. What a great post, Susan, and so true!! I loved reading it ;). Hope you and Peapod are having a great start to the weekend! xox

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