I’ve been working on this analogy about how the way I experienced the birth of my child is like how birthing my creative work has been. Even though the final outcome of my child’s birth was not what I wanted – i.e. c-section and ensuring numerous complications – the final product, my daughter, is fabulous and wonderful and, yes, the light of my life. And, actually, I have a lot of lovely memories about my labor: my husband being at my side encouraging me, a candle given to me by a good friend burning at the end of the tub where I labored; I watched it burn and knew that friend was with me, the walk I took while along the dark asphalt littered with lovely fall-colored leaves, where sunshine rayed through overhead canopy of huge deciduous trees. So, though the final outcome of the labor took place in a hospital operating room with sterile bright lights, a dozen frantic people, and my body split open – all in stark contrast to the ways I’d hoped the finale of my child’s birth would be – the only moment I really care about is when I saw my child’s face for the first time, with the tiny constellation of melia on her sweet nose and her whole face turning to me when I said, “hi baby,” showing me her gorgeous bright wide eyes of recognition. I am honored to have all those good memories of labor, and quite glad, after all the complications I endured, that I lived to remember them.
In my last post, I mentioned how in similar ways, birthing the final products of my creative writing has also not happened in ways I hoped. Originally, I wrote that my hope had to do with having “enough [creative writing] published to make some money to contribute to my family’s income.” After a conversation with a friend who’d read the post however, I deleted that last sentence, because I’d realized that statement wasn’t completely accurate and was moreover confounding the analogy I am trying to make. (I love that I can “publish” my posts and then edit them later.)
The truth is, I don’t write for money. I simply love writing, and, for me, the act of creating through words is a spiritual and meditative process, with the hierarchy of literary genes, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, helping me to reach these spiritual planes. Plus, I love reading other people’s writing – there are so many writers whose work has helped me understand my being-ness, my relationships, my feelings. The very sounds of words and individual letters and the creation of images to express feelings and thoughts in ways helps unite us all – and so, writing is my passion, and I have done it for years without making much money at it.
So while I would like to contribute to my family’s income via my passion, I realized I have done so via teaching creative writing classes for the local college and private workshops and winning two monetary awards (though both so long ago and slight in remuneration). As far as my own writing goes, I realized, money would just be an indicator people were actually reading my work, relating to it, liking it, perhaps even being helped by it, which is what I really hope for.
But, my other secret dirty truth, or secret dirty hope, besides wanting to help people or to make some money for my creative efforts, is that I also want validation from people whom I perceive as knowing something about writing; i.e. literary bigwigs like publishers and agents. I’m egotistically driven, and that fact is sad, but, nonetheless, true.
The other day, I read an article about self-published writers making a mint on their books and then I did a bunch of Internet surfing in search of what it takes to be successful at self-publishing. I was thinking, as far as money and readership, I could put my novel out there in e-book format, thereby making amends to all the trees I killed writing that novel over a dozen plus years, and appeasing all those friends who’ve been asking to read it for so long. Moreover, thought I as I daydreamed about self-publishing, I could get my AV artist friends to make me a super-cool book trailer I’ll put on YouTube, and then I’ll use all the social media I know how to use, and learn even more about those I don't, to promote myself. I can do all that, I thought as I scampered around my office, surfing, reading, scheming, panting. I’d make some money through self-publishing, and I’d be happy those characters in my novel I lived with for so long were finally out there relating to people.
But, ultimately, I thought, I’d be sad because the literary bigwigs, most likely, wouldn’t notice my novel even for a moment. And then I actually read some of the excerpts of those novels out there in cyberspace, with their cliches and abunance of adverbs – "she said, self-importantly" – and, for the most part, their horrible cover designs. Self-publishing, I realized, felt to me like a c-section birth. Did I really want to do that to myself again? I still feel bad enough about my actual c-section, and what my ego perceives as having failed in childbirth. I don’t know if I could take what I perceive (or what my ego perceives), as selling my long-worked on novel short like that.
This analogy isn’t perfect; indeed, comparing one particular but actual childbirth to the birth of a novel is rather messy, perhaps even bloody, as in, too much over-thinking bloody.
After a few days of dreaming and Internet surfing and reading about self-publishing, the spinigitis in my head reached dangerously feverish temperatures. I had to tone myself down, so I handed my daughter over to my husband, and went to meet with some friends to help get me grounded. When I entered the room, I started to cry at the very relief from my own ego-fever. I admitted how I was sitting at the musty deathbed of a terminally ill man named the Publishing Industry, waiting for his blessing, while the rest of the writers were moving on, taking things into their own hands, letting their novels and books out into the universe and cyberspace. Crazily, that dying breath of validation from the old man who may never quite die was what my ego wanted. I also talked about how I am still sad, two and a half years later, about my actual c-section and how I think, perhaps, it’s time to move on from that sadness, much of which is egoistic in origin in that I did not birth my child in the mother-earth-goddess-fashion I hoped for. I asked for recovery from myself.
And then, outside the window, I heard the familiar grumbling of a diesel truck. I walked outside to find my husband and child in the parking lot. I went to the window of the truck to see my girl in her carseat, her entire face wet with tears and snot.
“She’s been crying for you for an hour. She only stopped crying when I said maybe we could go find you,” my husband said, his voice weary, as he unbuckled her and she climbed out the window, reaching for me.
“I wanted you, Mama,” my daughter said, and she hugged me.
I held her slender little body close against mine, tucked my chin into her little neck, and sobbed. I felt in that moment how the way a creative being is born into the world doesn’t really matter; though it may really hurt. What matters is the final product – the creative life force and the love we feel for that force.
“I want you, too, honey,” I whispered. I kissed my daughter’s cheek, now wet with my tears.
As a family, we walked then to the beach, the sun already set, but the sky streaked with orange and pink, the ocean calm and the slight breeze still holding the only warm temperatures we’ve had all year. My own ego-fever relieved, I breathed in the warm air and felt joy as I looked back to the footprints we’d made in the sand. I don’t yet know for certain what I’ll do with all my creative writing projects still in drawers or those yet to be written. But I know the steps I take to get there, with love and support from family and friends, is the only journey that counts.