A Writer’s Labor and Birth

While 50 pages of my novel sit at the agent’s office, waiting to be read, I am busily doing one more spit and polish on the manuscript. My editor had made recommendations, which I followed, but I want to make sure that all my latest changes make sense…either in case the agent wants the rest of the story, or I decide to query other agents, or I decide to self-publish again.

As I get closer to the end, though, I feel a familiar sensation, one that hits me every time I finish a project. That is, a fear of death emerges. Now, I hesitate to some degree to talk about this, but a few years ago I learned that I’m not the only writer to feel that way, so I might as well tell the truth. It’s not as bad as it used to be– it’s one of the main reasons I didn’t start writing until I was 39. These days I just say, “Yep, here it is again.”

Thing is, every time we write a book we are reborn in some way. Maybe it’s a piece of myself that I don’t need anymore that dies, and that’s what I struggle to let go of, but finishing a book is a bit like having a baby, except you’re not dealing with diaper changes, cries, and sleepless nights.

Well, sometimes we still get the sleepless nights, but it’s not the same. Like a baby, though, the book needs nurturing even after it’s “born.” We send it around to publishers and agents, announcing that we have the cutest baby book ever. If someone says our baby is ugly, we take offense. And, we must care for it, revising, resubmitting, getting feedback, etc., to help form it into the best little citizen book we can. We don’t know what it will be when it’s grown up, or how others will perceive it.

In the meantime, though, we wring our hands and fuss over it, doing our best and wondering where the damned manual is–because for all the books that exist on the craft of writing, there is no definitive way of creating a novel. In fact, I have already learned that each novel has a life of its own. I’ve finished two and started a third, and each one takes a different path, just as each child does.

We learn, in the end, that some efforts, despite our best intentions, are stillborn. They don’t quite work, they languish unpublished, or they don’t sell. It hurts, and we grieve. Sometimes we wonder if we’ll ever be parents at all! Still, we proceed with determination, like everyone who wants to parent a child, and we keep trying. We learn that when we allow ourselves to love, whether it’s a child we have or a book we write, we may die a little in the end. We may be disappointed. But we will not be sorry that we allowed ourselves to love in the first place–for that is where life’s magic resides.


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