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Bringing Children and Books into the World

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A thought came to me the other night while I was down on my knees. Alas, I was not praying but cleaning out the litter box, and while ten percent of my brain pondered the eternal verity of dust to dust, the other ninety percent was in a fit of frustration after a misunderstanding with my daughter and pondering a marketing opportunity for my books. At that moment, it came to me that the two experiences—bringing books and children into the world—are filled with an alarming number of similarities. There’s the excitement that grips you when you first think: “Yes. I can do this!” The dawning realization that the process might take longer than you imagined. The unanticipated discomforts: “Will this heartburn never end?” “How can I make this boring chapter interesting?” The secret shock and horror that no one must ever know you harbor: that your newborn looks like Winston Churchill, or that your cover is not at all what you’d hoped for.

There’s the pride, joy, and fear: “Will everyone else recognize how perfect this creation is?” And the occasional hidden doubt: “Is this essence of me that I’ve struggled to bring into the world truly perfect?” Please don’t let them notice the bad behavior, or the head-hopping in Chapter Three.

The list of things we never thought of is endless: a diaper overflowing on a friend’s sofa, or those red, perforated lines not lining up on the format page. So too are the unforeseen astronomical costs: “A bottle of Tylenol that small costs how much?” “I have to pay for copyediting by the word?” And then there’s the waiting: “Any day now, this child will sleep through the night, right?” “Any day now my sales will take off, won’t they?”

But finally they are out in the world. My babies and my books. I look back and see so many times I made the wrong call, made a too-hasty decision, or didn’t give more time and attention to a delicate situation. So many times I rushed in like a fool when smart angels were warning me to look at my checklist or spend more time hanging out with my kid. Then I get the rare gift of a full night’s sleep, and I fall vulnerable to that most insidious thought: “It wasn’t all that bad; I kind of like this child/book. I can do it again.”

So I take the plunge, and the sleepless nights begin again.

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