Writing a book is not like having a baby

That’s stating the obvious, isn’t it? Yet for the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of references to “labour” and “birth”, to “midwives” and “newborns” – and these people aren’t talking about tiny humans.

This complaint may sound grumpy and petty; it’s not intended that way. I’m not disparaging the thousands of hours of hard work that go into either enterprise. Having chosen to engage in both, it’s only reasonable that I also love them both. But when we overuse this analogy, it deflates the delicate, consuming, enormously frustrating, and endlessly rewarding disciplines of both writing and child-rearing.

Writing is both easier and more difficult than having a baby because:

1. It fits into your schedule. If you don’t create time to write, you don’t write! (Try putting your colicky infant on hold that way…)

2. It hones skills you were already good at. I’m a voracious reader and I excelled in English all through school – a thoroughly typical profile for a writer. The things you learn daily as a writer tend to be subtle and they make you a slightly better craftsman in small but satisfying ways. The first diaper I ever changed, though? On my newborn son’s tiny, flailing, slippery bum, while I was stunned by opiates, full of stitches, and tethered to an IV pole. Why hello, learning curve.

3. Babies grow, develop, and become ever-more-interesting individuals. Your published book will always contain that typo you missed on p. 187.

4. A published book never grows less beautiful. Children become adolescents.

5. When writing, you are the boss. When parenting, you are a teacher/social worker/butler/wallet.

6. When writing, I am recognizably and consistently myself. When parenting, I am sometimes my own enemy, but more often I feel inspired to be a better human being.

What do you think of the book/baby analogy? Did I miss anything?

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2 Responses to “Writing a book is not like having a baby”

  1. GEW says:

    I would also say this: Once a baby is developing, it will entered the world, one way or another, without much intentionality on the part of the mother. Once I conceived my baby, it was going to be born regardless of what I thought about or did everyday.

    Not so for novels. I have conceived many ideas for novels, but none of them have made their way into the world as a book.

  2. Ying says:

    Absolutely, GEW! What an omission on my part. :D

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