Thursday, 17 March 2011

Birthing a Book: An Author's Postpartum Reflections....

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

The day I brought my newborn daughter home from the hospital wasn’t like the television and magazine ads where beaming parents climb out of a car, sunny smiles on their faces, holding a pink or blue bundle. Oh, I held a pink bundle alright. And I wanted to smile, I really did, but I was terrified. I’d just left a beautiful nine-month journey—dreams of frills and pink lace, baby showers, attention from friends and family, a wonderful birth experience—and stepped right into the big middle of motherhood.

Oh, yes, I was happy. I’d brought a beautiful baby girl into the world. I was a parent. I’d dreamed and planned for this day. But, the moment I stepped across the threshold into my own home—far from the pampering security of the hospital where I merely admired and held my child while nurses actually tended her—I was ONE MY OWN.

I made a bee-line to the sofa, my daughter in my arms, and sank into the cushions, then sat there for a long time…frozen. Scared. Wondering what the hell do I do now?

Sure, I figured it all out in time. I did pretty well as a parent, and have a lovely, well-adjusted daughter to show for it.

What does this have to do with writing? I would never have dreamed it WOULD have anything to do with my writing journey; but every day I’m learning that it has everything to do with being an author.

On March 2, I gave birth to another child. A book.

Just as the glorious time leading up to the arrival of my daughter, I reveled in the splendor of the pre-published process—winning the contract, edits, approving the cover art, the galley print and…finally…the RELEASE. The birth of the baby.

Who knew? It’s happening again—sitting on the proverbial couch of fear with my newborn baby. Because now, just like with my daughter’s arrival, the exquisite preparation and the joy of birth are over. And, just like the real kid, I’ve found I have the same parental concerns with…yes, a book!

You know about post-partum blues? Well, who knew there could be such a thing as post-publishing blues. That’s what I’m going to call it.

Damn! Here I am again, with the same parenting concerns. I’m staring around, scared, blank, asking what the hell do I do now?

When my daughter was in high school, there was the debate over whether she should try out for cheerleading. And now, here I am, weighing the pros and cons of cheering on my book through promo. Go, book, go! Ra-ra-ra—siss-boom-ba! Do I promo? How MUCH promo? I still haven’t found the answer to that question. Some moms were really good cheerleader moms. I wasn’t. Some authors are natural-born promo-ers. I’m not. I’m bumbling with promoting my book, and the process frightens me. I’m out of my element. I suppose I thought it would be like a bird, I could let it go and it would fly on its own. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.

On the subject of promoting, I’d babbled to some author friends about my failure to elbow my way into a loop chat, what a disappointing experience it had been. I’d been told it was a good way to gain exposure for my novella, so I felt the need to put myself through this torture in order to promote my book. Upon complaining that forcing myself on others was not my cup of tea, one of my friends advised me to do what was comfortable for ME, to promo in my own way. And, again, here was a flashback to motherhood—remembering that much of parenting is feeling your way around for what works with YOUR child.

The old motherly fear—will my kid fit in? Will other kids like him?—is no different with a book. If you have children, do you remember what you told them when you had that discussion? I do. Some may like you, some may not. And you can’t take it personally if they don’t.

To carry it a step further: will my kid be popular? Maybe. Maybe not. Again, I have to fall back on my child-rearing experience for THAT question. In following my own advice to my child, I won’t push to be popular. I’m not a rock star. I’m an author. I’m selling a book, not myself. If it’s ME I’m pitching, then why put any effort into my writing? My dazzling personality will sell the book, right? Wrong. The bottom line: I want my WRITING to count, I want my WRITING to be what a reader enjoys, what they remember.

I was blessed with the friendship of other experienced parents when I became a mother. I’m not sure how I would have survived the parenting game without their support and advice. I listened to all of them. Same with being an author. I’ve had the honor of having a host of supportive friends in the writing business. They are generous with their tips and suggestions. I listen to them all. Some of the tips I use, some I don’t. But I listen and absorb it all. It’s valuable education, and it’s free.

Last but not least, one of the biggest similarities between being published and being a parent is this: My first book, like my first child, will be the one I learn the most from, simply because it’s MY first step into publishing parenthood. I’ll learn from subsequent books. I’ll continue to learn as long as I write; but that first time will have been the orientation to the process. It will always be the most special because it WAS the first. I’ll be no less overjoyed with the next book and the next, but this baby will always hold that special spot in my heart. The characters will always be my precious first babies.

Like a mom feverishly taking pictures of her kid on prom night, I open the publisher’s page, or the Amazon page, and look at my child, I admire the cover, still revel that this is MY offspring going out into the world. His first date, if you will.

Just like that half-thrilled, half-scared mom on prom night, I find myself ‘waiting up’ to see if my child makes it out into the world safely, wondering if my book will fly or not.

No matter how much I cheer him on or worry over him, one thing—just as a real child’s debut into the big world—he’s on his own, and he’s really not mine anymore. But if I put all the love I had into him, if I wrote him to the best of my ability, he’ll be whatever he was meant to be, and he’ll be okay.


Natalie Dae said...

Bless you. You don't 'alf fakkin' worry, my dear. He'll be fine. It's time to get pregnant again!


C. Zampa said...

LOL!!! Oh, Nat, I LOVE it! I've got one in the oven, is that enough?
Hugs, dear lady!

Harlie Williams said...

I love your blog and the post is brilliant. I never really thought of the writing process as givng birth. Wow!

C. Zampa said...

Welcome, Harlie! And thank you!
Yeah, it sure is the same, isn't it? The goods and the bads, smiles and frowns. LOL...

Sarah Ballance said...

I've experienced similar thoughts, although much more so with my books than my children! LOL. The part that hits me hardest is the "what next?" about a week after release - er, birth - but I've found the process of creation (would that be the sex?) to be the most exciting part of all. Great post!

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Sarah! You know, the funny thing? I don't think I was conscious of having those thoughts as a new parent, but having them NOW brought it all back to me. LOL.
And, boy, do I ever with the writing process was as pleasant as creating process. LOL.
Thanks for visiting. Hugs!

Laura G. said...

Here's to your newest bun in the oven! LOL Nice post, girl.

C. Zampa said...

Hugs, Laura!
It's growing, it's growing! Thanks, you darling lady!

Unknown said...

I've never had a baby, my my first book (a novella) was released in January, so I guess at the moment, I'm sort of in "toddler" stage with it -- delighted by the way that people react, but also scared by how stubborn it can be, afraid that it won't attain all that I hope for it.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The morning I was being discharged, I told the nurse, in my most maternal voice, that she could dress my son since it would be her last chance. Ha -- who was I kidding! I bet she knew exactly how terrified I was.

What a wonderful post, Carol. You're right. You're about to learn a whole mess of stuff, some good, some bad. I'm not even sure it's all that important. I'm about to help launch my second book. Guess what I've decided? Yep, I'm not going to worry so much. If the world doesn't like my baby, it's their loss. I adore him. And I'm going to enjoy this one a lot more. If there is some fear, it's not taking the fun out of it one bit!