Over the past nine months, I have worked on a first effort book submission for a writer’s conference. The pain and the reward reminded me of childbirth.
Contractions of fear and doubt and WTF am I doing made me go hormonal.
Other nights, I felt more connected to something than I can remember in a long while. Sitting at my desk, cocooned in my womb of writing, I felt something new and alive inside, growing.
It was a labor of love to deliver 75 damn little pages.
My husband saw I needed some space. He slipped back into that guy, my birthing partner. He offered his solid strength and reassurance and humor. Just like every other time I was birthing something.
He made space to take the kids out and let mom write.
My three kids became my coaches, my dream baby doulas.
They’d ask, “What percent done are you Mom?
“I don’t know. I’ve never done this before. I think I’ll know when I’m ready though.” I’d say.
And then, “how many days ’til your deadline?”
“Nine days left kids. I’m not where I want to be to deliver this yet . You know that birthday party, well that takes time to plan. And those homeschool lessons I have to write.. and well, I’ve never written a book before and…(insert excuse 1,2,3,4).” I’d reply, defensive.
Days before my deadline, my eleven year old son instructed, “Just do this, Mom! Cancel your appointments. Find a nice quiet space and just do this.” He’d just read the book Shoe Dog about the creation of Nike. He was like a fired up Steven Pressfield in eleven year old boy form.
It worked. I pushed it out. I pushed send.
During that creative process, these were the other voices that kept me going. They kept me focused on the big picture and the process. They helped ease the pressure of worrying about what my book baby was going to look like.
Making a creative baby will keep you up many a restless night. The things our minds churn over in our rest states are many times great ideas sorting themselves out. Those quiet spaces bring our unconscious and our intuition more to the surface. You can bemoan the things that keep you up at night. Or, start using your insomnia for good. Keep a journal on your nightstand, capture your thoughts. The thoughts that keep you restless may be the same that keep others restless too.
2. “Tell it straight and true.” – Anne LeClaire, author, Listening Below the Noise and Entering Normal. Anne reminded me of the power of simple language and clear and true storytelling. Sometimes I over think form or dialog or all the things I don’t know. Her words help me come back to basics of authentic communication.
Tell it straight and true also reminds me to read my work aloud. To actually listen to my writing voice. Writing is storytelling. Telling your own stories can be weird and awkward. Yet, it’s an essential practice I’ve heard from every writer admire.
3. “Tenacity wins over talent almost all the time. Talent gets lazy. Tenacity gets published.” Ann Hood shared this with me when I was up late at night at a conference, frustrated. I was ready to just bail on submitting a contest piece that year, wondering if I had enough talent to even bother. Then, I asked Ann her advice. “What separates the writers that find success and those that don’t?” Her words lit a fire under my ass.
Tenacity in the process and practice of writing is a game changer. And tenacity can reshape your world in pretty much every other thing in life too.
As for the other advice: Answer what keeps you up at night. Tell it straight and true. I think that goes ditto for creative life in general.
On October 4th, the night before my son’s eleventh birthday, I turned in a first draft. I delivered a small, 75 page book baby. I pushed send. A little premature, not close to perfect, but it was time, and I knew it. Just like I knew when it was time for James to arrive. It’s that whoosh of life that happens when you feel fear and letting go and joy and strength all in one moment.
When I told James” I turned it in!”, his face looked like I gave him the best birthday present ever. “Mom, I can’t wait to read your book,” he beamed.
Cute baby, smart baby, ugly baby, preemie baby. It didn’t even matter what my creative baby looked like. I felt such relief and such fullness in that moment.
I’m coming to accept that in the beginning, my book baby might be ugly.
I may be out of my depth and not know quite what the hell I am doing in birthing a creative baby. But, with commitment, with connection to this thing that came out of me, I trust it will blossom. I will nurture it, I will learn along the way, I will get better at figuring out how to usher my thing into the world. I will keep listening to those encouraging voices that remind me when to push.
As for the pain, the creative stretch marks that come with our dream babies? The ones that leave lasting tracks on your heart and mind and soul.
Yup, so f’in worth it.
With Deepest Gratitude to Sheryl Netsky and Stephanie Puente for their ongoing guidance, coaching and wisdom in all areas of life including writing. You can learn more about their amazing, transformative work by clicking on their name links.
Graphic Design: Sarah Durkee