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Thoughts on Birth and Book-Making
motherhood and the creative process, birthing a book, illusive balance of the creative and sacred everyday life
I have been working too much. The truth is, I like to work. But I know I have been working too much when I get mad at people for wanting to do normal, healthy things—like eat another meal. I have not had the freedom to live in a state of creative flow like this since I became a mother 15 years ago, and giving myself over to a big project, though it seizes upon me in waves like labor pains, deeply nourishes something inside of me. I could honestly lose myself in this kind of work. I have realized that I can be wound-tight with an idea from morning to night for days on end if I don’t allow motherhood to gently unwind me and remind me to do, with care, the things that make life worth living.
It will be good to get back to a more routine pace of life once I sail this book out into the world. I have missed the easy rhythm of our life these last few months, and I know that even though I am here every single day, my family has been missing me. Not only my physical presence when I am shut up in the other room, but my mind, which has been greatly preoccupied with learning how to make a book. I am grateful to them for giving me so much time to make this decade-old dream of publishing a book a reality. And I am glad that they have seen me struggle. I have no doubt that my daughters and sons alike will, in their lifetimes, frequently wrestle with the illusive balance of the creative and sacred everyday life.
After having eight children, I can honestly say that writing this book feels a lot like birthing a baby. I have already been through transition. I would dare to say I have maybe already delivered the book. Now I am just waiting to get the dismissal paperwork and the car seat check so I can take my baby home.
I started reading C.S. Lewis’s last novel, Till We Have Faces, this week. I’m listening to it while I catch up on dishes and laundry at the end of the workday. The book is mesmerizing and strikingly different from his others, though it reminds me most of The Great Divorce, which is my favorite. There was a line I read this morning that hit me. The narrator has a fire shut up in her to write a story. That is what the book is about—the story that she must tell. She says, “I was with book as a woman is with child.”
Those words hit me because I know this feeling now. It brings to mind that this is the time that I am usually, based on the pattern of the last 15 years, great with child and due any day. This is the longest stretch by far I have gone without a child in my womb. There is a bit of bittersweet poetry to this. Even though there is really no comparison between a beautiful, living newborn and a flutter of pages that hold a few thousand words, still it does feel like birth. And I have felt great “with book” as all of the peripheries of my life have receded while I turn to this work that only I can do. It is, like birth, a turning inside-out. A process that must be gone through, every detail of it, to get to the moment of joy at the end.
The joy is coming, friends!
Here I am, holding the blessed book in my hands. I have sent off for one more proof to double-check every last thing. I hope to have news of the delivery date soon! Sincere thanks for being here, for bearing witness to the work of my life, and for being a part of this book-birth story.
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