Critique, fiction, motherhood, writing

All Joking Aside

Future book reader
look, it’s a Baenie Baby!

A few of us were kidding around in the writing group I belong to online. It’s not your average group: we never show one another examples of work for critique, although we use one another as guinea pigs, er, beta readers, from time to time. This group is more for motivation. We post word counts, cover designs (most of us are also indie authors), or just general rants against the world when the writing is not going well. This particular discussion got started with a declaration of intent: to not edit while writing for NaNoWriMo, just to keep going ahead. The funny guy in the group promptly responded with “Push, push, push…Breathe, breathe…push, push, push.”

So, ok, maybe NaNo doesn’t equal Lamaze. But writing can sure feel like the creation of something new, wonderful, and maybe a bit slippery and gross at first. It’s only after that editing clean-up, and maybe the addition of some soft, sweet blankets (cover!) that your baby starts to pink up and look adorable. Ok, I realize I’ve just left some men and non-parents in the dust here. Trust me on this one (I’ve done it four times, after all, for real babies) when I say it is both easier and harder than that.

For one thing, with a baby, you know it’s going to come out. One way or another… ten months of pregnancy and labor, and it’s over. A book has no such guarantee. Unless you push, like my friend is doing with NaNo, you might never deliver that sucker. As a writer, if you want to be serious about your art, you have to introduce some discipline, with goals, and stick to them. Yes, I know you hear this all the time, from everyone. There’s a reason for that. Oddly enough, it’s us creative types, who get the bad rap for being spacey and disorganized, who really do have to learn the most excellent time-managment skills to keep everything going toward the finish line of delivery.

How is it harder than having a baby, you’re wondering? Well, first of all, when you are holding your newborn in your arms and they look like a little pink rosebud monkey, everyone is socially required to lie. That’s the most adorable little person ever, and don’t you believe it. With your book, on the other hand, a few people are going to pick that thing up by one cover, hold it out at arm’s length, and exclaim loudly “I think something needs a diaper change! What’s that smell?” and they will do it on the internet, where their critique will linger. Unlike a baby in private, a book has to venture out into the cold wide world and make its own way, so soon after you’ve delivered it. And you have to set to, even before that debut, on writing another one. Sometimes I look back at women of old, like Susanna Wesley with her nineteen children, and wonder how on earth they could bear it, especially knowing so many would die, their promises unfulfilled.

But just keep writing. Whether you think of it as labor and birth of something new, amazing, and slightly stinky before cleaning, or if you just see words on a page, that story isn’t going to tell itself. “Push, push, push…Breathe, breathe…push, push, push.”