I know a lot of women writers who also happen to be mothers. It’s not unusual for them to refer to their books as their “babies.” After all, they conceived the idea, became a bit faint and nauseous during the writing process, faced insecurities and fears about their abilities to actually follow through and do it justice, and finally they labored and spent sleepless nights making it the best it could possibly be. I get that. I do.
But, to me, writing a book is more like being in a relationship. Your book as your lover. It’s an intimate connection and your book lover knows more about you than you would ever want your children to know. When you’re pregnant, you get lots of “oohs” and “aahs” and pats on your protruding belly as they ask, “When are you due?” And you have an answer.
You also have a very visible sign of how things are progressing. You know when the pregnancy will be done and you might even be done early. Not so with writing a book. You’re just as likely to get a limp “That’s great…” as the unanswerable “How’s the book coming along?”
Experts have come up with stages for love relationships and I find them to be uncannily like the stages of writing a novel and just as tough to endure and accept.
Stage 1: Romance
The idea comes to you and it leaves you breathless. Love at first sight. The thought of it occupies your every waking hour and even invades your dreams. It’s hard to focus on your workaday life, because something much more exciting is waiting for you, and you want to spend every spare minute together. You can’t believe this is actually happening to you. It’s like an addiction. The idea of it makes you high. How was I lucky enough to come up with this idea? My prose is breathtaking! This is it; I’ll never want to do anything else.
Stage 2: Love Hangover
It seemed so perfect in the beginning. It was meant to be. You had already plotted out how it was going to end and it was lovely. Now you look at those pages and think, “What was I thinking?” This is never going to work. That “breathtaking” prose, now stinks to high heaven. Getting this right is too much work. This is where a lot of writers (or lovers) walk away to start something new and exciting. So you start mulling over new ideas that you’re sure to love and stick with to the end. Sound familiar?
Stage 3: Stability
If you made it through the Hangover stage, you’ve learned to deal with the slings and arrows of writing, rewriting, rewriting and rewriting your book and dealing with disagreeable feedback. But things are going well enough that you decide to hang in there. Maybe it’s not going exactly how you envisioned in the beginning, but it is what it is and that’s okay. For now. You can see that the advantages of sticking with it outweigh the disadvantages of walking away.
Stage 4: Commitment
So, you surrender yourself to the inevitable—finishing and polishing your manuscript. You choose to stay the course, no matter what. But it’s not all smooth sailing from here. There’s still work to be done. Temptations and distractions are everywhere. You’ll be tested, but you don’t give in. You’re in it for the long haul now. You’re going into it with eyes wide open.
The kicker is that in real-life relationships, you likely assume each time you invest yourself, that this is it. There will never be anyone else. At least that’s what most of us hope for. But when you write a novel, even as you reach the commitment stage and type “The End,” you know that you will suffer rejection (possibly lots and lots of rejection), yet your next book lover will be there, patiently waiting to consume you. And you already know that, against your better judgment, you are going to willingly surrender, body and soul, as you’re, once again, left breathless.
Densie Webb (not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor. Her debut novel “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” was released by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2015. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety), drinks too much coffee and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. She is currently working on a second novel.
Category: Contemporary Women Writers