I used to be a Birthcenter nurse and work with the nurse-midwives in a major San Diego hospital. Now I write books and design houses. I miss delivering babies with the midwives more than I can say. It’s the most mystical, amazing, rewarding work I’ve ever done. Part of my heart still feels broken, but I’ve found an excellent alternative.
Anyone who’s ever written a book, or knows someone who talks about writing a book knows what I’m about to say is true. If you don’t want to read it (maybe it reminds you of something traumatic or tragic), just skip to the other parts at the end.
Writing a book is quite similar to conception, gestation, and childbirth. It’s not an analogy. It’s a mirror.
First you get an idea, or an idea is thrust upon you by someone else, or “whoops, I didn’t mean to have an idea but it just happened while I was minding my own business”.
Regardless, you have conceived.
For some, even the ones who didn’t intend, it’s a happy blessing, or a blessing, or you think maybe it will be a blessing some day when you forget what you went through.
Some unplanned conceptions are curtailed, some become lost, and some are put away for later pregnancies. Nice that you can do that with a book.
Then, if you decide to proceed, despite the odds, despite those wise souls who offer “it’s all a crapshoot”, you plunge into territories not meant for the weak-kneed, the weak-hearted or the weaklings. It’s territory meant for crazy people. Or writers. Oh, never mind, let’s just call them parents.
As a parent, you’re presented with all kinds of information regarding the proper feeding and care of your child during your gestational period. You listen to these stories and all the advice with a mixture of gratitude, terror, guilt, shame and duty. You try to adhere to the current trends, the zeitgeist, and the latest wisdom. You try to cover all the bases and eat only organic foods (write something original and purely brilliant), drink healthy things (not go down the path of many talents and pull out the sauce to feel inspired), get plenty of rest (except the nights and days you can’t stop writing because you’ll forget it, or worse, you can’t seem to find an original or purely brilliant thought but you keep writing anyway).
You know you’re doing these nurturing things for someone other than yourself. You know this but in the midst of morning sickness (hangovers and writer’s block), extreme fatigue (how many times can I possibly edit in a 48 hr turn-around?) and the resultant need for daytime naps, loss of positive body image (does this book make me look fat?), loss of hair, loss of memory, loss of appetite, enormous appetite, indigestion, varicose veins, stretch marks, an un-tamable craving for Trader Joe’s Sesame Honey Almonds (or as I call them, “crack nuts”), irritable bladder, full bladder, tiny bladder (so tiny you think you may need a “bladder whisperer” to cure you), and, of course, the ever present, ever lovely, hormonal response to your body’s (your book’s) developing form. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause and she’s wearing a stethoscope and latex gloves.
Then, when you think you have begun to taste the finish line… and you have summed up every ounce of courage to cross it, someone, everyone, thinks that now is a really good time to tell you the worst stories they can possibly remember about actual labor (getting published).
You want to beg them to stop. You wish you had a friend who would make them stop (the way I used to joke and interrupt these stories from visitors to my laboring mothers with statements like, “you know there’s no exit strategy here, right?”) You want to shout at them to stop, but still they terrorize you with battle stories.
Then you deliver. You hold your child and your body rushes with those bonding drugs and you’re in love with this creation, you can’t help it, it’s primal. You do that mammalian thing where you look each other in the eyes and imprinting begins. Imprint. In print? Hmmmm.
"No." Some of you are protesting. This doesn’t always happen and there are as many reasons for attachment disorder as there are agents, publishers, editors and bad writers in the world. But, usually you fall in love with your child. You hold it up to family, to friends, to strangers. You want to hear how beautiful, how precious, how perfect this child is. Instead, your sister-in-law compares your baby (who looks just like her Uncle Herman) to an old potato. At this insult, you want to protest, but when you look at your child you now see an old potato, or Uncle Herman, or something common, not unusual, not unique, and certainly not perfect.
I have delivered and I understand this is the review process. Delight and despair. I’m not expecting any middle ground.
My pregnancy (publishing journey) was complicated. I had breast cancer, mastectomy, reconstruction and then another revision. I saw a lot of the hospital. Then, when I had recovered, I had a biking accident on the bike I bought when I got my cancer diagnosis!
It was, as they say, a freak accident. I was clipped into my road bike and my front tire blew. I went head over handlebars with the bike on top of me. I won’t bore you with details, although, we really like to tell these stories, don't we?
I will just say that it’s challenging to finish editing a book with a spinal injury and a concussion. But, strangely, although I had “word-finding issues” in my speech and early on with the Dragon Dictation as I attempted to speak a chapter or two, when I was finally able to put my fingers on the computer keys the words flowed quite freely.
“The Book” became an important piece of my recovery. Finding time was not a problem anymore. I had tons of time to write. I had a reason to write as well. I needed to finish to make my time, to make the experiences I’d had, matter. I needed the experiences I’d had to be something other than random chaos.
I think the chapters I wrote after my accident reflect a deeper understanding of the lightness of life. I like the stuff I wrote after I hit my head. I think I’ll like it long after my sister-in-law compares it to an old potato, too.
This birth has been difficult, but I wouldn’t change anything. OK, maybe I’d skip that part with the pain.
My child is out in the world now. I cannot protect it. I cannot change it (although, I’d really like to change a few more things).
It’s perfect, in the original sense of the word: finished, but not without flaws.
Jules Finn and Samuel Trautman know that sorrow can sink deeply—so deeply it can drown the spirit. In THE BELIEF IN Angels (She Writes Press / $16.95 / April 2014), by J. Dylan Yates, these two wounded souls—one struggling to survive her abusive childhood with her sanity intact, the other haunted by memories from his Holocaust past—must decide: surrender to the grief that threatens to destroy them, or find the strength to swim for the surface.
THE BELIEF IN Angels is a gripping, heart-rending family saga that explores the darkest side of human nature—and the incontrovertible, uplifting power of hope.
Connect with me @firstname.lastname@example.org
For direct book sales: www.jdylanyates.com or Facebook/TheBeliefinAngels.
THE BELIEF IN Angels is also available wherever books are sold.