Monday, October 27, 2014

The Paperback Pregnancy

After birthing 3 children, I thought my pregnancy days were behind me.  My children are now all adults in the 20's and seem to be capable of taking care of themselves.  Then out of the blue one day I realized the urge had returned.  I'm in my 50's now. Was it the right choice to embrace pregnancy with all it's inherent risks?  Hormones are not easily denied, so I plunged ahead full steam.  My husband shuddered. He just wanted peace.

Okay - it wasn't a biological baby this time, it was a book.  I began interviewing and writing about 8-10 years ago and over time had accumulated tons of behind the scenes material that couldn't be used in a magazine article.  I shared these interesting life stories many times and received a great response. What about taking 10 of these interviews and writing mini-bios on each. It meant increasing the size from about 1,000 to just over 5,000, but I always struggled keeping within the magazine's word count. How hard could it be? Turns out it was actually very hard. My initial confidence dissolved into a puddle of self-doubt.  One day while driving, the similarities to pregnancy and birth arose and I couldn't stop laughing. The only difference - this time the gestation period was 18 months.

While there are accidents, for most of us, the road to birthing a baby starts with the joyous decision to have one.  But first you have to know the basics of the birds and the bees. This is lore handed down from parents to children or taught in sex ed classes. There are misunderstandings. As proof, I offer the 20 year old who thought if one condom was good, two would be better. Enough said. It was funny, but not pleasant.

Unless you have a degree in writing the process is self-taught with varying degrees of success. The result is many hours trying to figure out how to start. This isn't a short story, poem or magazine article - this is 50,000 to 100,00 words that have to stay interesting and flow well.  How to begin? Well, like with pregnancy you start by trying.  Then after a few months with no progress you start worrying that it won't happen, that you're not capable. Off you go to the specialist. For a writer that might be an evening class, a writer's group or a mentor. The specialist does tests, gives advice, tells you the odds and offers encouragement.  In the end you head out the door to try again.



No luck? Time for intervention with a capital I.  In pregnancy that would be IVF - a complicated process. For the truly stuck writer, a 2-day writing workshop where the book's focus was laid out, title selected, chapters created in bullet points and back cover written is a great tool. The workshop will plant the seeds of success but the writer still has to make it happen.  Sometimes IVF takes several tries, but if successful, you celebrate the news of a viable embryo. A writer still heads home from that workshop to stare at that computer screen, but with the tools provided at the workshop, the book slowly starts to take shape as one single chapter emerges - an embryo to build on.

Slowly your pregnancy bump grows (the number of chapters blocked out gets larger) and you begin to get outside encouragement from friends/family. Then another snag hits.  In pregnancy it could be gestational diabetes, or bed rest to get through a difficult pregnancy. It's disappointing as you want to be out shopping and glowing (really who glows). In writing it's the dreaded writer's block hitting yet again.

If you're lucky to have a publisher like mine, my "intervention" was a weekly email to set goals and check progress.  But deep down you begin to question your talent.  This is supposed to be what I am good at! Where is the ease of writing? Where is the joy?  I love this quote by Ernest Hemingway. There are days writing is a true joy - but just as many that it is sheer hard work. Just like being pregnant. You rejoice in feeling your baby kick (your book start to take shape), but dread the weekly doctor visit to monitor your sugar levels.

Then comes the day your labour begins.  Sometimes it flows naturally, other times it means last minute intervention - forceps, induced labour, c-section.  For my book which includes 10 mini-biographies, that meant last minute changes from those I interviewed to make the chapters more accurate, difficulty getting the last bit of information I needed to finish, family demands that allowed little time to focus and the list goes on. It often felt like trudging through mud. You're almost across that illusive finish line. Why can't you get there?


Then it happens. The doctor hands you that beautiful new baby - the writer hits send and the manuscript is off to the publisher.  It's time to celebrate. The hard work is done - RIGHT? Much to my surprise as a mother and a writer - this is not true in either case.  As a mother, I had a cold when I delivered my second child, which she of course caught immediately.  She could hardly breath the first few weeks of her life and many anxious moments were spent in emergency. Another had a mild allergy that took several worrisome months to figure out as he didn't thrive. Jaundice, colic - other challenges arise. As a writer, you face the difficult editing process - much needed, but still hard to embrace - as well as feedback from distributors, changes to cover art, developing a marketing campaign, promotion, proofing and more,  Your work has only just begun - and at a time you are truly tired.



In the end your baby becomes your pride and joy, but the road to that moment is much more complicated than I ever imagined. Nothing beats watching a child sit up, roll over, take that first step, laugh for the first time, say that first word. I am beyond the moon proud of who they have become as adults.  I am not there yet as a writer as my book will launch in January 2015, but I know how accomplished I will feel when I finally hold that first print copy of Life Outside the Box in my hands. Would I do it again? Absolutely. There is no denying those hormones that drive us to achieve despite the difficulties.

You can check out my article on what Life Outside the Box is all about HERE.

Join my indiegogo campaign to create an amazing Vancouver launch - launch tix, signed books, lots of other perks and more. Just click HERE.

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