Sunday, September 13, 2009

Giving birth to a novel

A few weeks ago a near collision landed me in the hospital, mostly for observation. While there I had the opportunity to witness a natural child birth. The lady had come into the labor and delivery triage by ambulance. She was full term and in the middle of contractions. The nurses examined her and determined she was not ready to give birth thus there was no rush. Since she wasn’t admitted, no anesthesiologist came to discuss epidural or pain medication. They were simply waiting.

This lady wanted the perfect scenario. She wanted her mother, significant other, and grandmother, a double amputee, to witness the birth. While there, her mother showed up explaining that her significant other was sent to collect her grandmother. The lady and her mother argued a few minutes about the baby’s name. After being assured by the nurse that her daughter was nowhere close to giving birth, the mother left to grab a bite to eat.

No sooner than the mother had left, the nurse decided to check the lady’s progress. Not only was the lady fully dilated, the baby was crowning. What happened next was like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy. The entire floor rushed into action wheeling in and connecting equipment, monitoring her and the baby's vitals. The lady was crying out for pain relief, but it was too late to be administered. The nurses gently coached her to push while she cried out in pain. In a few short minutes the baby was out, her cry echoing in the small room. The baby mama who just a minute earlier was crying in pain, was now laughing, crying in joy and gushing over her lovely baby girl. The nurses and all the other patients, separated by only curtains, applauded.

Then came the mundane part: passing the placenta, cleaning up and performing the episiotomy (stitches). While the lady’s mother who had just returned gushed over her newest granddaughter, the poor baby mama had to endure the boring and painful part of the clean up. Of course neither the significant other or the grandmother made in time to witness the birth.

The nurse then returned to me and asked what I thought. I had one word for her, “amazing.”

So what does all this have to do with writing? Well I couldn’t help but equate the entire experience to the creation of a novel. We start with an idea that is at first vague in our minds. As the idea takes shape we have this illusion of the perfect novel, the perfect scenarios, the perfect characters. But soon the characters take on a life of their own. So instead of the perfect scenario we had in our mind, we find ourselves changing the scenes, changing the interactions, and changing expectations just like the lady with respect to her relatives witnessing the birth.

At first, the writing goes slowly. But as we near the end we pick up the pace, often with it consuming our every thought. Then finally at that last moment when we’ve written that last word of the last sentence of the last paragraph, we can look back and breathe a sigh of relief. We have created something novel and unique.

And for that brief moment we bask in the glory of our new creation. But then comes the mundane part: the editing, the re-writing, the fact checking. Feels like an episiotomy doesn’t it?

In that respect, writing is very much like giving birth to a baby: the labor of love, the joy of a new creation, and the agony of editing.


Genella deGrey said...

How beautiful. I'm tearing up reading your post, Jewel!

We do give birth to stories, don't we? :D

G., who has been very busy at the 9 to 5 moving into a new building. Still not totally in yet.

Liane Spicer said...

Great analogy! Parts of the process are painful, all right, but the joy of creating something unique never goes away.

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