My best friend is 38 weeks pregnant. As I’ve walked alongside her through this miraculous journey, I’ve been struck by certain similarities between pregnancy, birth, and the writing life.
PREGNANCY – My friend now waddles when she walks. Her hip hurts all the time. And when her seven-pound baby kicks, she sounds like a football player after a major collision. Pregnancy, I have found, isn’t for wimps.
Creating, researching, and writing a story isn’t either.
Sometimes you waddle under the weight of a convoluted story line. Toward the end of the process-writing every day, keeping up with the research, editing passages that refuse your direction-you grow desperate to give birth. You want to be finished. But like a baby, a story is done when it’s done. That doesn’t mean you can dispense with discipline. Deadlines are still a reality. You can’t be pregnant for 15 months. Thank the Good Lord! But you can’t push your baby out just because you’re tired of carrying it either.
BIRTH – Is painful! You can’t write a full-length novel without a certain level of agony. This can be internal and come in the form of self-doubt. I was talking to a successful radio host with seven books under her belt. She said with every single book, she hit a point when she began wondering if this book was a complete mistake.
The pain can also be external. The discipline of writing requires a lot of sacrifice. Where is my tan? My workout? My vacation? They’re in my novels.
CLEANING THE POOP – No matter how talented a writer you are, like a mother with an infant, you will have a lot of poop to clean. It doesn’t mean your writing is poop, although sometimes as you edit, it’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking such discouraging thoughts. Like babies, novels come with the need to be cleaned up.
HOLDING YOUR BABY – Lest you think it’s all work and no play, there is nothing like holding that finished novel in your hands and sharing it with the world. Part of the miracle of writing is that you can touch people you’ve never met. Today, I read a letter from a woman who was raped when she was six. She had found encouragement in one of my novels. It’s the most amazing feeling when God is able to use something as simple as a story in order to touch another human being.
GOOD HELP – My friend couldn’t have this baby without the help of a midwife. Whether you are a published writer or not, find yourself talented editors who know your genre. Learn to receive constructive criticism. If you were walking around with a piece of toilet paper sticking out of your skirt, wouldn’t you rather have someone point it out to you? That’s the job of the editor. They show you the broccoli stuck between your teeth, the slip hanging down your leg. You just say thank you and fix it.
Tessa Afshar was voted “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011. She was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. Her conversion to Christianity changed the course of her life forever.