Earlier this month I was scheduled to appear on a panel “What’s Easier: Birthing a Book or a Baby?”
Strictly speaking, nothing was easier than an emergency C-section for my twins. I made no decisions. I did no work. I went into labor at 3pm and they were born an hour and a half later at 4:30. I mean, this easy birth was still fifteen weeks before my babies were due. So that sucked. As did the three months in the newborn intensive care unit and the two years of early intervention therapy.
But the birth? That was easy.
As for the birth of a book, I’m not precisely sure when that milestone happened. Was it when I purchased the ISBN? Or when I got my first page proofs? When the cover was complete? When I mailed ARCs to potential reviewers? Or was it when I delivered a box to the bookstore that hosted my book launch?
In that sense, when a book gets published, it’s more like a grownup than it is like a baby. After the final proofs, the pub date, and the book deliveries, that book is out in the world doing its own thing. I have no control over how it will be received or appreciated or even misinterpreted. Just like when my kids grow up, hopefully I’ll still be around, but I won’t be shaping their narrative.
The book launch isn’t the birth; it’s the wedding.
Perhaps the birth of a book is its first draft. That’s when the book comes into being for the first time. There’s still a lot of development and guidance necessary and, as every parent (and writer) knows, you can get all the advice in the world, but it’s up to you to impart it. If you don’t, that baby (or book) does not thrive.
And so you guide and shape and make mistakes. You learn things such as a later time for a baby does not mean he will sleep in the next day. Maybe you go to a class or ask the advice of an expert. That’s when you learn that you constantly write the word “coo.”
The big difference is that a book doesn’t grow up unless you feed it, shape it, discard it, pick it up again. The chances that your baby will become an adult are much greater.
There’s one similarity between birthing a book and a baby: post-natal amnesia.
What was so terrible again about those late-night feedings or the hours of revisions looking for extraneous uses of the word “so?” The times I cried, “I can’t do this” or looked at my screen and thought, “this is the suckiest idea I have had since my last suckiest idea.”
I have no recollection. Was it so bad? I can only remember the peace of holding a sleeping infant, the thrill of finding the perfect image for the end of a chapter, the joy of moving a paragraph to quicken the pace of a scene.
That means just one thing: I’m ready for another baby.