Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gestation period of a book (or the neurosis of an author with a soon-to-be published book)


The gestation period of an elephant is 22 months. Those poor elephant mothers! But then elephant mothers aren't like human mothers. Unlike us they likely accept their condition without worry or anxiety. I doubt thoughts of 'what if?' run through their large elephant heads. They just carry on, accepting what is, feeling heavy with the weight but not stressing over it.


Human mothers stress over ever little ache, pain and twinge. Am I gaining too much weight? Not enough? Is my baby going to be healthy? Will it have all its fingers and toes? My ankles are swelling! What does it mean?? Hmm.... I'm quite sure elephant mom's don't worry about swollen ankles.


The gestation period of a book is almost as long as that of an elephant, and the author is plagued with as many worries as the human mom. As I get closer to the launch date of my spring '08 book, Gotcha!, I'm becoming more and more fretful. Did I tie up all the loose ends? Are the characters believable? Did I overwrite such and such a scene? Is the ending sappy? Flat? Is it a truly stupid story? Will the reviewers hate it? Should I withdraw the manuscript and send back my advance money??


I remember the final weeks before the birth of each of my daughters. I loved the feeling of the wee baby feet kicking against my abdomen, the baby hiccups, the image of my unborn child curled up inside of me. But did I ever worry! How would the birth go? Would there be complications? Would I be a good mother? Would my child be healthy?


It's hard to believe that a soon-to-be published book can be as anxiety-arousing as a new baby, but there really are many similarities. Like the mother about to enter the hospital, knowing she has to leave her dignity at the door, the author also feels vulnerable. And unworthy. The soon-to-be mother wonders if she is up to the task of raising a child. The author wonders if she has actually written a worthwhile story. Should the new mother have remained childless? Did the publisher make a big mistake in agreeing to publish the author's book?


I know intellectually that worry is a useless emotion. I also know that Gotcha! will find an audience, or not.

All three of my daughter have grown to be fine young women. They are each doing a wonderful job of making their own way in the world. Each of my books has done the same. I enjoyed writing them. Each story felt worthy enough to become a book as I wrote it. I have received wonderful feedback from readers that reassure me that the the paper they were printed on was not wasted. That's what matters in the end.


I hope that each of my daughters will strive to leave the world a better place, whether it is through kindness, wisdom or through one of their many talents. I also hope that each of my books will leave a positive imprint in the hearts and minds of my readers.
Nameste,
Shelley

14 comments:

Leslie said...

Have no fear. Your books and your daughters have had tremendous positive impact on our world already and they will continue to do so. However I understand what you are saying as I sometimes feel that way just before sharing something of my own before an audience. I ask myself "What were you thinking by bringing these people here?" or "OMG, Leslie, who do you think you are?" Perhaps if you didn't feel the worry and anxiety you would become somewhat lazy as a writer and a parent. I believe it is the reflection of yourself in your daughters and your insightful way of writing that helps make each of them a success. Now try to enjoy it!

Leslie said...

I can't wait to hear about your New York trip!!!

giggles said...

Your genuine love of humanity is every reason that you are the perfect author to address children. Your gentle spirit radiates love and understanding to the world exuding off the page. I hope you will heed my words, wasting no more energy on self doubt. Because you are such a kind reflective person, we wait in anticipation, needing to hear what you have to say! Forge on my friend, head up, or down at on the page...and have faith that you are making an incredible difference! Soon the birth of your book will alleviate all uncertainties.

Hugs Sherrie
I can't wait to hear about New York either!

Dani said...

Thanks mom!
Your books are all amazing, do not worry about them!

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