There’s a little-known disorder that affects some authors that very few people, except other authors, knows about. Readers certainly don’t know, at least the ones that do not follow regularly, an author whose suffered it—and talked openly about it: Book Baby Blues.
Authoring, revising, editing, and polishing a book is an intense labour of love. Much like conceiving, growing, labouring, and delivering a human baby. The difference is, most books are conceived purposefully, while some human infants surprise their parent(s). And like some women sail through pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering, losing the post-partum weight seemingly effortlessly while other women vomit, waddle, cry, and remain lumpy from positive pregnancy test to their child’s first birthday, some writers produce copious prose and numerous books a year to enormous success, while others of us grind and groan our way to one book a year and spend the weeks following the book’s release slouching from bed to sofa wondering why we feel like sobbing, when we should be celebrating our wonderful achievement. I call that phase the Book Baby Blues, and like post-partum depression, it’s natural.
The physiological, emotional, physical, and mental changes that characterize pregnancy and early post-partum weeks are not unlike the physiological, emotional, physical, and mental adjustments an author experiences as he traverses the book-growth phases from conception to delivery to market.
From agonising over whether to write the story—has it been done exactly this way, before (everything’s been done; it’s a matter of creating an imaginative twist and interesting world to one of few tropes: rags-to-riches (or reverse); second chances; friends to lovers; super-sleuth, super-cop, or super-spy; magical witch/wizardry; vampires; dragon-slayer; secret baby; coming-of-age; ugly-duckling to swan; end-of-world/zombies, etc.)—to wondering what voice and style to use: First-person or third-person close? Past or present-tense? To spending hours, days, weeks, months and in some cases years, living in the book’s eco-system, it’s much like creating and raising a child.
Some babies seem to conceive themselves and develop with ease with nary a burp of indigestion, so to do some books. Other books—like some babies—take longer to catch, and when they do, the succeeding months can be quite bumpy and nauseating, the delivery celebrated with relief. Regardless of how easy or hard a book is to develop and write, edit, and polish, the result is the same—a finished book. A newborn. Warm, wet, wriggling, and amazing.
I’ve birthed four human children, and now two novels (I’ve other completed manuscripts, but none ready to birth to the world) and for me, the emotions of seeing your child out the door forever—and judged by those they interact with—is similar: terrifying, and prideful. And, when you’re standing alone in the silence of their leaving, heart-wrenching.
I miss the stories, and people in them, the way I miss my eldest children who’ve moved out.
Dianna and Jake, Mother Mary, Maggie, Eleanor, Juan and Rosa, Ellen and Edward, Elaina, and Lizzy… they weren’t just characters to me. They were my family; I lived with them almost daily, for years. They feel real. Intellectually, I know they’re not. Emotionally, I feel like half my heart moved to Australia. It’s an odd experience, soothed as I move in with a new family, this one centered around Maggie.
Life is about letting go. Pigtails to bras, first drafts to cover art, single to married to divorced to married again, child to mother, father to grandfather, here, to memory… Change is ceaseless. Only love, is enduring. And when that love is found within the pages of a book, it’s for sharing.
I’m looking forward to sharing Maggie’s story with you when the time comes, even though I know I’ll suffer the Book Baby Blues then, too.
The emotions are not always subject to reason… but they are always subject to action. When thoughts do not neutralize an undesirable emotion, action will. ~William James