Monday, March 21, 2011

Urban Myths: Writing A Book Is Like Having A Baby - Kara Isaac

I have heard it said many, many, times, that writing a book is akin to having a baby. This proclamation is generally uttered with such great conviction that, in my naivety, I went along with the wisdom of those who have gone before me.

Creatively I could see the parallels. Writing a manuscript is very much a labour of love. There are the nights you lie awake, or wake up, trying to unravel a particularly obstinate scene or figure out a character who just won't do what its supposed to. Sending your manuscript or book out - be it to be judged in a contest or by the general paying public - and not getting five star rave reviews back does literally feel like someone has attacked your much loved and (you think) wonderful child. While unpublished, I can certainly imagine how holding your very first printed book after months or years of perseverance would be greeted with a awe similar to having your first born thrust into your arms after hours of labour.

Now, having crawled my way into the fourth month of pregnancy, I can only conclude that those who utter this advice sagely either (1) have enough years between now and the actual event that time has healed many many wounds, (2) you are one of those lucky women who glowed like Moses while you glided all the way from conception through to birth with great hair and flawless skin to boot or (3) your nation subscribes to a much more managed approach than the "suck it up and carry on" mantra of New Zealanders.

So here are my top five reasons for why writing a book is NOTHING like having a baby, bearing in mind that I'm assured the worst should now be behind me and that a year from now I'll probably be a fully fledged believer in the analogy again!

1) Projectile vomiting. No matter how horrible the scene, how badly written the chapter, or tedious the plot problem, not one of my manuscripts have ever had me running for the ladies' like Usain Bolt in the 100m Olympic finals.

2) The escape clause. Tired? Had enough? Been staring at the same page for three hours making minor meaningless changes? File, shut down, walk away, my friend. It's a beautiful thing. Morning sickness, in contrast, doesn't come with a ctrl-alt-delete option.

3) The "public property" assumption. Has a stranger ever walked up to you and stroked your laptop? A friend popped around and started patting down your manuscript? No? You'd probably find that odd, probably even kind of disturbing, right? And yet having a bump seems to make you a target for people who seem to be practicing their skills for a job with airport security.

4) No wine and cheese allowed. Fundamental components of any great productive post-midday writing session.

5) Ceding control. Writing a manuscript - you're in complete control (well with some exceptions if you're under contract). Heroine red hair or blonde? Hero pilot or engineer? Write today or spend it watching a Bachelor marathon? Laptop or desktop? Mac or PC? Get up at 4am to squeeze in a couple of hours or burn the midnight oil? Romance or sci-fi? First trimester? You get to control what clothes you're wearing as you bolt for the bathroom. Pretty much everything else is out of your hands.

Alright, I'm ready, convince me that there are more simularities that differences or else add some more reasons to make my argument even more convincing...



  1. Thanks for the chuckle, Kara, though I'm sure your humor is just 'slightly' on the edge with this. Hang in there!

    I'll add to your list of differences instead of trying to convince you of similarities.

    You can't abandon a child just because it's not cute enough or talented enough for you. But it's a GOOD thing to abandon some of those early manuscripts that don't have what it takes to succeed!

  2. Rel Mollet sent me this link (probably after reading one of my own recent blog musings on the impact of pregnancy (and finding out we're having a little boy when I was hoping for a little girl) on my life and my writing over here in Laos. I'm so glad she did - this made me laugh.

    I'm with you. Having published one book and with another in progress, and now being 20 weeks pregnant myself, I must agree. Writing a book and having a baby are not a perfect match.

    Here are some of my own reasons why not. Let's start with the positive:

    1. I have been assured that it is physically impossible for women to stay pregnant for ten years. That is the length of time it took me to finish my first novel.

    2. Once the book is published most of the real hard work is done and you are left merely with the fun and froth of radio and print interviews for six months, before everyone forgets about you and your book and life returns to normal. I highly doubt that's the way things progress after a baby is born (but if they do I may not complain).

    3. You never have to put up with your main character deciding to be a different gender than you intended. And, as the reader above said, if the character gets too recalcitrant and refuses to conform you can scratch the whole plot and start all over again.

    4. Writing a book only changes you on the inside. Pregnancy changes both the external AND the internal.

    I am, to put it bluntly, not enjoying being pregnant either. I'd take book writing over pregnancy any day. On the other hand, no one ever did an ultrasound of my book-in-progress (like I had done in Thailand last week when we went there for medical check ups) and showed me all the bones are in the right place and everything looks healthy. That's a bit of a buzz, I must say.

    Thanks for a laugh. All the best,

  3. Thanks for the post and congrats being pregnant.
    I hope the next 5 months go better without the morning sickness etc.

  4. Kara, what I have said most often is that my first novel, (Brandley's Search, reissued as Where Love Begins) came to me with such urgency it was like being pregnant--it *had* to come out. I wish all my books would come that way rather than the "Climbing Mt. Everest barefoot" ones.

    But *do* try to enjoy your pregnancy, it's a very special time in your life. And, even if you're not enjoying, it will be over soon anyway.

  5. Sorry you are not enjoying your pregnancy, Kara.

    I hope you will soon feel better and be able to get excited as your baby grows and you feel him/her moving.

  6. Thanks everyone. We're very excited about the baby, and things have definitely improved the last week or so, but it's definitely a challenge!

  7. Kara, thanks for a good chuckle. I'm with Lisa about the ten year pregnancy. Mine wasn't quite that long but from conception to birth will have been about seven years.

    Also, once your baby is fully formed, (s)he will spend the last couple of months getting polished (puting on weight and growing hair) before birth. My book was fully formed a year ago, but because the would-be publisher had already signed with another author on a similar topic, it will only be "born" in September 2012. So we're looking at two-and-a-half years carrying a full-term baby. No, that definitely doesn't appeal!