Now that my novel is eleven pages long (2,753 words!), I feel like a pregnant woman in her first trimester.
First of all, I’m afraid I shouldn’t have told anyone what I’m trying to do, since it’s still early enough that the entire endeavor may fail. This little embryo doesn’t feel embedded yet; it hasn’t established the real connection to my memories and fantasies that it will need in order to remain nourished and grow. It might… it should… but it hasn’t quite latched on yet, and I’m worried for its survival.
It may also be hampered by the fact that I’m a “senile prima gravida”… an obnoxious medical term that means I’m too old to be a first-time mother. Has my long-barren brain been dry too long to produce sufficiently robust creative juices? Is it possible that my little novel may suffer from structural deformities that stunt it and transform it into a short story, or a play? Am I somehow so deficient that I can only give birth to marketing pieces and training manuals? Will I discover at some point through the process that I’m just penning another boring white paper?
Am I dedicated enough to carry this little sucker to term? Will I sit at the computer morning after morning, layering new cells to its frame, and making sure it grows a meaningful story arc? Will I have the skill to give it heart, and intelligence? Will it be delivered safely, and will it have the legs to move along the process of publication? Will it have the athleticism to jump off the shelves at the bookstore? Or will it be a pretty little adornment on my own shelves and my friends’… a happy little vanity project… a conversation starter at parties?
When I was pregnant with my children, I had a much better idea as to what I was producing. Like a good hypochondriac, I kept a number of medical books at hand, and I was always aware of each baby’s progress along a predictable path of development. I remember rejoicing when Amanda had reached the size of a lima bean… then a cocktail shrimp, a lemon and a kitten. I remember the excitement of knowing when each child’s notochord had been formed… when their sex organs acquired definition… when their fingers and toes came to be.
I won’t have similar guidelines should my novel keep growing and developing, and I worry that uncertainty about its viability will drive me totally crazy. How will I even know when it’s finished?
And I may receive some pressure to put an end to this work in process. What if I actually find a job, and lose the hours I need to write? Will I defend my little novel’s right to life, even if it’s threatened by my compunction to earn a living?
I am filled with trepidation and uncertainty, and yet somehow, I am also infused with expectation and joy. I’m producing something that will be a labor of love, a statement of personal expression. I am putting words on paper that no one has written before.
I always expected to be a mother, and I’ve always expected to write a book.
Let’s hope this baby is nearly as wonderful as my human children turned out to be.