Before my daughter was born, back in my 20s, I had this idea that I would have my first novel published before I had kids. Ambitious, fresh out of grad school and focused on a writing career, I knew what I wanted.  Then, over the years that idea developed and grew its own branches and leaves: a book before a baby, so I'd be an established author before my life got pulled into the inevitable morass of bottles, diapers and sleepless nights. I had this notion, pre-kids, that having a child created a fissure, an ending, a void. My life would be over and nothing interesting would happen after that, so it was critical to have my book done and finished first.
    Then an everyday miracle happened in real life: a baby appeared in my body without that mythic novel ever arriving on the shelf. Delighted by her arrival (and totally exhausted from the sheer physicality of waking, rocking, holding, picking up, burping, pumping and more), I still felt the vicious bite of the inner critic: you didn't get the book out and now it's too late.
    It's too late. That's how I felt in the early days of my baby's life last spring. I'd never get the time, mental focus or pyschological space back to continue painting and writing, much less the energy to send out my manuscripts and endure rejection. Like a creativity biological clock, I felt my days ticking away without that stupid self-invented marker of success: my book. Friends tried to encourage me by reminding me that life would settle down, time would come back and that my daughter was the most profound creation I'd ever made. I agreed, but I'd always wrapped my identity around my artistic life and that life seemed over. Gone. Vanished.
    But then this second miraculous thing happened after I gave birth: I became both miserable and fearless. I'd seen the void, that fragile silk thread holding death to life, in the process of giving birth and I'd felt the physical toll after growing and expelling another human. This raw state produced a new side to my creative life and I found a warrior. My life was over, but a new one appeared. I found courage in wanting to be the best artist possible, not for myself anymore, but for my daughter. And so, with my husband's constant encouragement, I dared to send out a long-dusty manuscript to a small press that was profiled in Poets and Writers, despite countless rejections.
    The third miracle then shot forth from the clouds: a book! The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography asked for edits and then accepted the manuscript, nearly exactly a year after my daughter's birth in February 2012. So, here I am, with a book in process and a growing child. I'll send the book's birth announcement as soon as it arrives, hopefully in May. As for the meaning of these two auspicious events and their reverse order in real life, I'll leave that to the Fates to decipher. After all, there are so many things in a creative life that remain a mystery.

02/19/2013 20:00

CONGRATULATIONS!! On both Maisie and of course the book! I will definitely be buying when it comes out.
I always assumed that once a writer, always a writer, but life can throw us off course. For example, since working full time I rarely write at all these days or have the inspiration.
Until now that is...! Hearty congrats again :)

lucinda kempe
03/21/2013 14:50

Frederic Tuten said to us one summer, "Stand in line long enough, you'll be served."

So glad you're getting what's coming to you. Write on. Happy baby!


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