Is Writing Like Giving Birth?
I recently took a walk with a friend who writes but hasn’t committed herself fully to being a writer. There is a difference! Someone who writes doesn’t necessarily need to take on all of the responsibilities that being a writer requires, including marketing her work. Her response to all of the things I’m currently going through (finding Advanced Review Copy (ARC) reviewers; seeking interviews; setting up readings—and so much more) as I prepare for the release of my next novel, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, was “I couldn’t do that!”
At first, I reacted a bit defensively to her response. It made me feel as if what I am doing doesn’t have merit and is beneath her. But as I thought more about her words, I realized that being unwilling to put in the time to not only write but also to promote one’s work—put it out into the world—is why she continues to be someone who writes. Being a writer requires of us much more than just creating our poems, fictions, essays, etc. We have to be publicity savvy as well and find every possible opportunity to make sure our efforts aren’t stillborn.
Having just watched my stepdaughter go through nine months of pregnancy, I can’t imagine her giving birth to a child that she wouldn’t care for in every possible way. Her approach holds true with writers, too. The image of a fully formed baby dying before she can enter the world is unimaginably painful. So, too, is the knowledge that some writers’ work will not find its audience partly because publishing book length works is not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of time and determination on a writer’s part to make it happen. But there also are many more outlets for writers these days. Not only is self-publishing acceptable but online literary (and non-literary) magazines abound, making it so much easier to send out work and find acceptable venues.
I don’t want this post to end up sounding like a judgment on my writing friend (or anyone else!) who chooses not to go all the way. She has made a decision that works for her. And I have made one that is right for me. I would feel terrible if, after spending years producing a novel, I didn’t give it the opportunity to find its readers. That interaction seems a major part of the writing process itself, the dynamic that occurs between writers and readers. Just as children need parents to thrive fully, so do our narratives need readers. I actually don’t feel as if my writing belongs entirely to myself. Consequently, I have the responsibility to give it life in whatever ways I can.
Hence I continually put in the necessary time and effort to send my writing into the world, preferring to not just labor but to be an active part of the birthing process.
What are your thoughts?