How Writing A Novel Is Like Giving Birth

by - October 22, 2015

how writing a novel is like giving birth #write31days

Today is my son's birthday. Fourteen years ago, the glimmer that began as a tiny spot in the womb below my heart made the world a little brighter because he became part of it. These years, they've squared off the softness of childhood and molded him towards the shape of the man he's becoming and I can't help but remember those weary beginnings when I held him warm and tight against my breast and thought it would last forever - when I thought that nothing was harder or slower or more excruciating than being a new mom...though nothing was easier than loving him.

He's trying to be grown and stoic and he faces life as if he doesn't need anything and yet he knows when I need him to be soft. He knows the moment it matters to pause and let me mother him. Those times when I plop down on his bed and ask him about life and he squirms and maybe rolls his eyes but he accommodates my need to never let him go.

"Love you, too," he still says every morning as he leaves for school and every night as he retires to his room and that daily offering is better than any birthday gift I could ever give him.

He is my heart - walking around outside my body - and I can't even put words to the blessing he is.

But this post is supposed to be about writing...

A novel, like a baby, begins as the seed of an idea - a tiny glimmer that takes root in the womb of your mind. It grows, slowly developing into something vital, expanding until you can detect its heartbeat, ballooning into a story so much a part of you that you can't hide it with big sweatshirts or silence - it is who you are and it shows to anyone with half an eye to look.

The First Trimester of your novel's genesis is lovely. The only morning sickness you experience is some harbored self-doubt but you vomit that out with an anti-delete declaration and you pour into your first draft with the affirming mantra that it doesn't have to be perfect it only has to be written. And so you write. And you eat embarrassing amounts of chocolate and rice krispie squares and you live in stretchy pants and slippers and even though you're feeling more tired than usual, you keep at it because you believe in the finish line.

The Second Trimester puts the breaks on your enthusiasm. You feel ugly and you have secret worries that your story - your baby - will be ugly too. You talk to it and sing to it and try to convince it that you'll love it unconditionally but you worry that you might actually be lying because you can't imagine loving something you haven't really met yet. You eat more chocolate and start calling out from your writing space, "could someone just bring me a spot of tea, please," because the idea of getting it yourself is exhausting. You're moody. One sentence makes you swoon but the next makes you furious. Nothing you do is perfect. You want it to be over. Sometimes you wish you never even started.

The Third Trimester is a mixture of relief and fear. You're almost there! You can see the end! It's so close BUT IT'S TERRIFYING! You distract yourself by editing the first chapter for the eleventy-hundredth time and reading through the whole thing again and again to try and convince yourself it's going to be okay {but you can't help but focus on your thick ankles and how that one character just might be the dark beast lurking inside your psyche.} You start nesting; the folding of tiny onsies and the perfectly arranged stack of tiny diapers is the way you read your favourite passages aloud and your incessant deep-cleaning of the kitchen is the ruthless way you search out every single 'was' and try to replace it with something better. You're all about the busy work because it helps distract you from the moment you'll push that fully gestated story out into the world.

The Birth is exciting because you know it finally means the end of people looking at you with pity. "Oh you poor're ready to must be so uncomfortable, anxious, nervous..." You are ready. And so you open yourself to the pain of it all - to the final letting go. You roll with the contractual waves to the moment you're sure you can't stand one more second and then it slips from you in a mess of blood, sweat, and tears; and {while someone picks your swooning sister-in-law up off the floor} the slime is edited from the beauty and the scale determines whether it's a novel or novella. "It's a book!" the publisher declares and everyone applauds as your name is sealed to the fresh-pressed spine.

And then you hold it - that thing you made with your love - and there is nothing in the world that could make you regret what brought you to that perfect moment. It is your heart, right there outside your body, its own tangible existence ready to breathe into the lives of anyone who cares to hold it too.

And you think to is not enough...let's do it all again... 
{click the image above to see all the #write31days posts}

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  1. You are a genius! That was fantastic! But do writers exaggerate the process to other writers? "You only wrote for 3 years? I took 5, and never slept, or used the washroom"

  2. Cracking me up, girl. Bravo!


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