It's been awhile since I actually gave birth to a human being, but I remember the process. And as I labor through getting these proposals out of my head and into the light of day, I am struck by the parallels, even though at this moment giving birth seems the easier task.
Both processes start with a tiny piece of raw material provided by you and fertilized by another source (i.e. the father or in the case of a book, all the information and details you've absorbed from the world around you.) Tucked safely away in the womb or in the head, the baby or the idea grows, taking additional nutrients and creating interesting side effects for the "host." With a baby, you have fatigue, tender breasts, backaches. Hormones going catawampus. Too many tears, odd cravings, water retention --
Okay, some of those side effects fit "hosting" a book idea as well. Add distraction, talking to yourself, laying awake at night hearing voices inside your head -- oh, I see the difference. With a baby, the side effects are physical and emotional. With a book, you're actually showing signs of psychosis. Hm -- that explains a lot.
Time passes. In pregnancy, the body does most the work with or without commitment from the mother. In fact, the mother can pretend the whole thing isn't happening if she wants and it will happen anyway. But with a book, there's no slacking off. Every little twist and turn is its own small birth, and in any book, let alone a mystery, there are many twists and turns. You have to be on deck for a million decisions, like a foreman at a construction site who can't go inside the trailer, put up his feet and suck down coffee all day. Like a director at a play during the first run through. Like a million other jobs that demand someone be in charge, day or night, rain or shine, no rest for the wicked.
I am currently having twins. And because I have alerted the powers that be in my corner of the publishing world, there is a feeling of inevitability about this. In other words, just like their human counterparts, these books will germinate, come to full term and be born. And then, like their human counterparts, they will need nurturing. They will do the literary equivalent of messing diapers and demanding two a.m. feedings before eventually struggling to their feet and walking a few steps before breaking a lamp. Then they will open the back door and race into the yard. They'll climb trees while I beg them to stop. They'll start dating and maybe have a minor run in with the law which I'll have to bail them out of. Eventually, they'll take one last step into maturity, be full blown gown-ups with a future that is out of my hands and I'll send them forth, kind of like giving birth again. I'll wipe away a tear or two of pride mixed with relief as they disappear from my sight.
And then I'll probably do it all over again, because just like a real pregnancy and birth, the end result will diminish the sometimes painful experience of producing the end product.
I don't have an exercise for you to do or even a lot of pithy questions but comments about your own "birthing" experiences would help distract me from my current overwhelmed state and would be most appreciated. Maybe you've discovered something that makes this easier. Do tell.