Being an author is remarkably similar to being a mother. It’s insanely hard work, yet infinitely rewarding. The reality of it is much different than we thought it would be. And, no matter how many advice books we read, in the end we figure it out as we go along.
That doesn’t stop us from wanting to see how others do it. When we notice kids thriving, we ask parents how they do it. When we read books that have stood the test of time, we analyze them to see why.
I just finished a full Story Grid analysis of Dracula. I’m sure you know who Dracula is, but my guess is that you haven’t read the novel. That’s true for most people and to be honest, it’s a challenging read by today’s standards. Yet, it’s a mainstay of pop culture. Obviously, Bram Stoker did something right because his child of the night went into the world and became a roaring success.
This kind of deep dive analysis takes months and I did eventually find my answer. Even better, discovering that the story is told from a woman’s point of view inspired my next novel which is a thriller. (Don’t worry, I’m finishing Masquerade first!)
My analysis will be published this October (2019) but chances are, only a select group of horror writers will read it. If it won’t be a huge income earner, and few people will read it, why did I do it?
It’s the same reason I’ve turned down party invitations in favour of staying home to make muffins for bake sales. It’s these seemingly unnecessary things that make all the difference to the child, and to the novel. They’re hardly sacrifices. Actually, they’re a good bit of fun!
The hard part comes later. The hard part is letting go.
Yesterday, I drove my son to the airport. He moved to Montreal for the summer but it feels like forever. Never mind that he’s nearly 20 years old and has been on his own for a year and a half. Intellectually, I know he’ll be just fine but mothering, like writing, is not an intellectual exercise. It’s an emotional one.
Amateur writers agonize over their work, endlessly tweaking and polishing their manuscripts. They’re so afraid that the book will flop that they never let it go. A lot of moms do exactly the same thing; they helicopter.
As much as we want to keep our children, and our stories, safe from criticism, we have to let go and trust that we’ve done our best. That the hours of analyzing masterworks and baking muffins have done the trick.
This is not for the faint of heart.
Some will succeed out of the gate, some will fail utterly. Most will stumble a few times before finding the people who appreciate them.
Many mothers, like writers, don’t have the luxury of dwelling on these tough decisions for too long. We have other works-in-progress needing our attention, other creations to mould and develop. One of mine has two dance recitals today. The other has a deadline on Friday.
And so it goes.