Aside from being a writer, I am the proud mother of three young children. So in addition to being a storyteller, I am also a mediator of fights involving food and/or toys and enforcer of bedtime rituals, teeth brushing and homework, as well as, the motivational speaker to pre-teen angst; not to forget the crazy mom on the sidelines at soccer games yelling at the referee to leave my kid alone (yes, I am that wild eyed woman with no makeup hiding under a baseball hat with a large coffee cup in my hand pacing the field back and forth).
In my spare time, I’m also laundress, housekeeper, cook, server (think Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore and Carson from Downton Abbey without the staff) and finder of everything missing in my home (think CSI without the cool locations and sophisticated labs), aka “the GPS for all things lost.”
So, you might be asking yourself right about now, what in the world does this have to do with being an author? Well, the answer occurred to me the other night while I was finishing up a chapter to a novel in progress: It’s the way I have become overprotective of my characters. They have become, indeed, my offsprings, just like any one of my children.
Now, if you are a mother too and can remember back to the days you were pregnant, you know how much you went through to deliver your little bundle of joy. Everything in your body was in turmoil, your emotions ran from high to low and vice-versa (like a Corvette goes from 0 to 60 in less than five seconds) and you were being stretched to the point that if you were Play Doh, you’d be broken into a million of squishy pieces (I cringe just trying to come up with a mental picture of this).
Whether you remember the labor, the delivery or, like me, had blocked the pain by either passing out or being helped along the way (all I have to say to that is one word-epidural. Where have you been all of my life?), at the end of a 10-going-25 hour ordeal to the tune of “Oh dear God, when is this thing coming out of me,” you were left drained, exhausted but utterly happy holding your little bundle of joy.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying writing is the same as delivering a 7-pound baby and all that comes with that (again, cringe-worthy image) but the process is somewhat the same. As a writer, you fret, you worry, you write to the point of exhaustion. You suffer through writer’s block, you read and reread the same paragraph until you think you’ve gone mad. You endure sleepless nights and anxiety. And at the end of it all, you are left with your pride and joy-your finished novel.
And just like a mother, you are fiercely protective of it. Just like when my first born son came into this world, I thought he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. No one could tell me differently. Now twelve years later as I look back at pictures of him as a newborn, I realize how unattractive he really was and wondered what exactly was I thinking (I might have still been under the Percocet induced haze). But at that time, you couldn’t tell me otherwise or, like a lion, I would have eaten you alive!
I guess when it comes down to it, you always think your children are the best. They are brilliant, beautiful and the center of your world. There was a period of a year where I seriously believed my daughter was the next Jackson Pollock. Her drawings were abstract, vibrant, and full of truth. The truth was she was three and she just meshed all of her colors together on a piece of paper because she liked the feel of it between her fingers; not that she was thinking of some greater existential meaning behind it. But you couldn’t tell me differently at the time. She was a genius. A soulful painter who happened to also eat chalk.
And the same thinking applies to my writing. I can’t help myself. Every time a review comes in, I cringe, hoping that someone liked my story, loved my characters . After all, they are my babies. They give me grief. They have me worrying about what direction they will take, what decisions they will make. And yes, they do make mistakes and are not always smart at making choices. They can be ditzy and sometimes cruel. But they’re mine and I love them, flawed and all.
Just like my children, I may roll my eyes at them and wonder what I was thinking when I created them but I would never change things. If I had to do it over again, I would still get in front of that computer and type out the same story, the same characters.