Writing

Dreams, Novels and Babies

Dreams are powerfully metaphorical.  Sometimes they are elusive, and you spend all day trying to noodle through their meanings. Other times, they’re fairly obvious — sort of like a 2-by-4 to the face. Last night’s dream was the latter.

I was with my main characters, Kessa and Danny, and we were running from. I’m not sure from what, but whatever it was, it was dangerous! We made it to a hotel, and I knew we were safe enough, so I decided to take a shower.  Afterward, I stood by the window, towel wrapped around me, watching the city of San Francisco is quiet contemplation. Danny came over and placed a hand on my abdomen and said, “I hope the baby is ok.”

I remembered then that I was a surrogate mother, carrying the child of these two characters. My belly was still flat — I was early on in the pregnancy. I felt nauseous and excited and overwhelmed all at once. I turned to him and searched his pleading eyes. He was worried.  I took his hands as Kessa joined his side, and I said, “Don’t worry, guys. I’ve got this.”

That’s when I woke up.

Having written my rough draft of my novel, and having given birth twice, I think I’m a fair authority of drawing this parallel: Writing a novel is much like pregnancy and birth. The emotions are highly similar. You are elated at the beginning, excited to realize a dream.  The possibilities are endless!  As the process moves on, you grow wary and you start to doubt your own abilities. What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t have what it takes? These questions keep you up at night.  But those self-doubts are peppered with continued anticipation.  You know the feelings will pass, and you plug along each day, knowing you’ll make it through. Toward the end of the process, the excitement returns in spades, but it is carried in on a cloud of nervousness. Even the pre-birth questions are similar to those in your mind as you finish a novel. In pregnancy, you wonder at the birthing process: Will it go smoothly, or will there be issues? Will the baby be healthy and sound? What will I do if problems arise? Did I buy the right size diapers?  The author’s questions are completely analogous: Did I fill in the plot holes, and create a complete and sound story? Is there anything drastically wrong with the plot or structure? What if I can’t find a market for this thing? With a novel, you tend not to worry about diapers.  There is, however, a “total shit” joke in there somewhere…

When I penned the last sentence of Rising, I felt a euphoria that can only be compared to the first time I held each of my children.  I’d created something unique, beautiful and miraculous. Each one was simultaneously all mine, while having a life of limitless possibility all its own.

And just like raising a child, birth is far from the end. My dream reminds me that the process has just begun.  There is editing to be done, and new stories to be told. Kessa and Danny’s journey has only started, and their current story still needs to be nurtured to full health and independence. They needn’t fear, however. I’m their writer, and I’m caring for their baby. I won’t let them down. And when I’m in San Francisco attending the writer’s conference next month, I’ll be ready for that next step of seeing this child off into the world.

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