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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giving Birth to a Book

Yesterday a client came to my office to discuss her pain over writing her book. Like many writers before her, she described her experience to be similar to giving birth.

Women often use that analogy, and no one questions that it's true. The time spent writing, revising, editing, and clarifying a book is as tedious as gestation and often takes about the same length of time, although for some it's more like an elephant's pregnancy, which lasts much longer than human pregnancy. The act of letting the book go at some point is equally as painful as childbirth. We have to face our fears. What if it isn't really finished yet? What if no one likes it? What if everyone rejects it? What if a publisher buys it, and then the public doesn't?

When I was pregnant with my son Sandy more than forty years ago, we did not have the privilege of knowing the sex of our babies. As many did before me, I chose yellow for the nursery walls, because it was gender neutral and cheerful. I often entered that brightly painted room, though, with nothing but fears: "It's my job to complete this room with a baby. What if I fail? What if there's something wrong with the baby? What if I can't endure childbirth?"

I faced those agonizing fears every day, until one day my perfect son rested in his crib, complete with all his fingers and toes. Everyone said he was beautiful, too. Ah.

As writers, though, how do we face our fears when we are writing a book? In the same way we face them in pregnancy. We keep going forward; writers and pregnant women have no choice. We have to reach the end of the journey to see what happens, whether our book or our baby is beautiful and perfect or whether it needs special attention to make it fully functional. We do whatever it takes.

As a writer, whenever you feel like quitting your book project, recall the excitement when you first concocted the idea. Remember the results you want from that book, whether it be fame, helping others, entertaining others, making money, or simply capturing your family history. Keep drawing on that excitement, and follow through to see what, in the end, you create. Unlike with human babies, at least we can keep working on our book babies until they are perfect--or near enough to perfect that someone will like it and want to read it.

Go forth and birth your book babies!

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