Extrapolating a cliche till it makes sense to me.
After a fun full-on day at the GEA social organised by the hot-pant wearing eco-heroine that is Emma Greenwood, I took refuge with Tracey Mathias Potter an Arvon friend in Camden. In her calm and choral-music-filled kitchen, we discussed children. We both have had three in a row.
Inevitably, we got round to a shared truism – of books as our new babies. I’m going to develop that theme, courtesy of our discussion.
We all have story conceptions that come to nothing. A quick spurt of an idea but no gametes fuse. Some tales get further. We miscarry, abort – sometimes an almost full text ends in stillbirth. In an echo of the maternal reality, I doubt many are lost and not regretted. Perhaps that’s why some writers resist talking about their work until the first draft is done: like naming a baby in some cultures, it may bring ill luck.
So it’s not surprising that we celebrate our achievement when we put down the least full stop. Balloons and chocolates, flowers and partying are entirely reasonable for what may have been a similar nine months or so of gestation.
But just like a flesh-and-blood baby, the hard work comes after her first emergence in the world. Walking, talking, the potty-training of punctuation – we do our best to make them relate to the outside world. Finding out who they really are. Each one has a different personality – parents and writers both experience that shock of recognition.
Then there’s the School of Editing. Handing over your darling to a professional or a group of critique pals to develop their particular strengths. Now that’s an important relationship we fret about – will they see what’s at her heart? Will she even get in?
Home Ed is possible – but with it comes the difficulty of being objective. Of course, your child is completely lovely, just as she is. Won’t she get hurt out there?
And what of the Agent, that marriage broker?
The analogy got in a bit of a muddle there – but the point is, we do our best on our own or with help, to bring our stories to maturity. When they are ready to go out in the world with their readership, we have to step back. We can never forget them, but what others think, how they get along together is not our problem – just like our grown-up children.
After all, we have others to tend to. Well, that’s my theory, anyway. My printed offspring are still in the Nursery.
What do you think?