Bringing Up Baby

Likening the writing process to a journey is probably one of those yawn inducing clichés Stephen King would urge us not to use. Although there are certainly lots of steps along the path to publication that any author has to navigate, I wonder if there’s a better metaphor for the agonies we newbies go through on a near daily basis as we struggle to bring our creations into being.

When I think back to how my novel would keep me awake at night in the early days and tug at my sleeve as it grew, I wonder if rather than being travellers up a mountain we are in fact more like parents to demanding children.

Like new parents we read all the self-help books we can lay our hands on (I defy any newbie to say they haven’t read On Writing and scribbled notes in half the margins). Like new parents we are woken throughout the night by nagging thoughts about our novel’s development (is there a twist we could add here or a character tell we could add there?) And like new parents all we want to do is talk about our darlings- though the only people who will listen to us are other writers going through the same sleepless nights.

Perhaps that’s why creative writing courses and writers’ groups are so useful. Not just because of what they teach us but also because of the people we meet through them. After all, like being a new parent, being a new writer can be terribly lonely if we don’t have anyone to share our experiences with.

Connecting with other writers helps us feel we’re not alone. It shows us we’re not the only ones struggling with plot details (or later in the game finding an agent or publisher) and there’s huge value in that. Only a fellow writer will truly understand how we feel after the nth rejection or how utterly buzzed we are to have won such and such a competition. And only a fellow writer will be able to inspire us to pick ourselves up when we get knocked down. But that’s not all. In the same way new parents connect with each other to share information and advice (as well as to stay sane) so too the newbie can learn and develop through his/her relationships with other writers.

Ultimately though just as ‘it takes courage to raise children’ (John Steinbeck) I believe it takes real bravery to be a writer. All the self-help books and writers groups in the world will amount to nothing if we are unable to keep going in the face of set-backs and grow rather than shrink from rejection.

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