Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Keys to the Universe

By Sariah S. Wilson

Something surprising happened to me after I got published. Nobody gave me the keys to the publishing universe.

It was sort of like when I had my first son. I knew the baby was coming. I was pregnant, after all (which is especially hard to miss when said child is nearly 13 pounds at birth and you resemble a baby orca. Speaking of which, I want to know where my CNN/Today Show crew was when I had a 12 pound, 12 ounce child - on my first try, I might add. That Buzzell family with the 13 pounder that was all over the media - that was their third child. Their first was 11, the second 10. It’s not that hard to get to 13 pounds on your third try. Maybe that’s why the Lord hasn’t sent me any more children. The world’s just not ready for a 15 pound baby.)

Anyway, back to what I was saying - we took these preparatory childbirth classes wherein they described the pain of childbirth as “discomfort” (but only if “discomfort” to you is, as Carol Burnett said, taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head). The class with its emphasis on the importance of natural childbirth was kind of a waste for me because I’m a firm believer in drugs to help with the “discomfort” of labor. While we were told to visualize our happy place, mine included an IV bag full of morphine.

But the instructor did say one thing that stuck with me (I mean, other than the whole “discomfort” nonsense). She described the birth process and talked about what you’d go through and how the doctors and nurses would all be there to help and coach you along and you’ve given birth and the baby is fine and you’re “fine” (how could you be anything other than fine with the only minor “discomfort” you felt?) and everything is wonderful and amazing and spiritual beyond belief…

And then…

Everybody leaves. It’s just you, your husband and your new baby. What do you do then?

I really thought about that. I thought about how we envision the process of giving birth for the first time over and over (and how it really won’t hurt that much, with the slight “discomfort”) and how you’re glorious and triumphant and then…then it’s just your new family. And you’re the mom.

The mom who has no idea what she’s doing.

I’m the oldest of nine. I probably had a better idea than most going into this what it would be like to have a newborn of my own. But I think some part of me half-hoped the heavens to open and divine guidance to instruct me on how to raise my child. Didn’t happen. I did it the way everyone does it - one day at a time, one step at a time, with lots and lots of phone calls to my own mom. Nobody handed me the mother keys.

Writing is often compared to labor and even if it’s not, then I am comparing it now for the purpose of me making my point (while duly noting that the “discomfort” of writing has nothing on the “discomfort” of childbirth).

Because, as I said in the beginning, no one will give you the writer keys either. You have to labor and learn and take it one day at a time, one step at a time. Your job doesn’t end with the acceptance of the manuscript. That’s only the beginning. In fact, believe it or not, I think it actually gets harder. There are benefits and wonderful things that happen, but there’s even more hard work and even more expected of you, whether you feel like writing or not. And I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

You know, I bet if I’d given birth to a 12 pound book Matt Lauer would have flown out here personally.


At 8/14/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

Very good blog. I for one applaud your accomplishment and I agree you should be on TV

At 8/14/2006 2:47 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

So true! Parents and writers both could use a handbook for after the "birth." NOW what?

I think I've learned more about writing and publishing since being published than before. That's saying something, since I was serious about the craft, conferences, and so on for years before I signed a contract.

In some ways that learning curve is valuable, if painful (forget "discomfort!"). At first I would have loved to have someone hand me the "published author" keys, but I think learning it for yourself has advantages, too.

At 8/14/2006 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(NOT trying to turn this into a childbirth debate......)

I find this an odd comparison. As someone who chose to birth unmedicated, I actually experienced the "discomfort" - I went through a tough experience, I labored, did it myself, and I do feel like it gave me some keys to mothering. I learned a lot about myself, my strengths and abilities through my experience with birthing. I feel more confident as a mother, and more patient with my goofs. I didn't expect it to solve every parenting problem, and it hasn't, but there was clearly benefit there. Using an epidural would not have brought me the same benefit (I know, I used one with my first. It was a hollow experience for me. I felt as though *I* didn't birth my baby, my doc delivered. Very different from my other births where *I* did it.)

On the other hand, I have never written a book. But I would imagine, especially after reading your experience, that it tests you and pushes you as well. I would think that you DO get some "keys" from being a published author. Maybe not ALL of them, maybe not as many as you wanted, but surely there is some benefit.

I'm thinking you gained something through the process that you would not have gained had you simply having your name on a book ghostwritten by someone else. What was it?

At 8/14/2006 4:52 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

My point was more along the lines of when you get published, other people suddenly expect you to be some sort of expert who has all this light and knowledge to pass along. The process of having your manuscript accepted does not guarantee such knowledge/wisdom. As Annette pointed out, I also studied the market, belonged to a professional writers' group, read book after book on being published, and the reality is that I have learned more now actually being published than I could have ever learned from studying or talking with others. But it was not an instantaneous experience as some people believe it to be - just as I didn't learn to be a mom simply from giving birth, I didn't learn everything there was to know about the publishing industry simply by being published.

(I know, I used one with my first. It was a hollow experience for me. I felt as though *I* didn't birth my baby, my doc delivered. Very different from my other births where *I* did it.)

Yes, we will have to stay away from a debate because I have very strong emotions on this subject due to the fact that both of my sons (both over 12 pounds, as I've mentioned), understandably, were born via C-section. I did labor with the first for 24 hours until my doctor decided enough was enough and when my son came out as big as a six-month-old, we understood why it wasn't working the other way.

The experiences (both times) were in no way hollow for me. I didn't feel cheated at all. I carried those 12 pound boys for nine months. I gave birth to them - they came out of me. I'm the one who suffered all the after effects of surgery. And I'm so grateful to live in a time when there was a way for them to be born healthily instead of killing us both.

I also experienced an increase in confidence and patience when my second child was born - but that had to do with the fact that I was already in the midst of parenting one child and I felt more like I knew what I was doing.

Word verification - fianard - a financial nerd.

At 8/14/2006 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue, then is expectations. You expected the all the keys, you didn't get them - in either instance.

But surely there were some. Which keys did you get?

And I'll say that if you don't labor, you don't stand a chance of getting any keys. You miss out on the produce if you don't plant the garden.

There are rewards to labor (in birth, writing, farming, painting, etc. etc.) but sometimes they are not as grand as we think they will be.

And just because we didn't get the rewards we expected, we should not discourage others from undertaking the same labor. I add this because I found your mocking tone towards birth insulting. I found my births very rewarding personally, and yet there are still plenty of people like you (and Bill Cosby - who is really the one who said that line about the upper lip over the head) who feel free to mock what was, for ME, truly wonderful, amazing, and spiritual beyond belief. And not in the sarcastic way you made it sound.

At 8/14/2006 7:39 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I'm sorry you interpreted my post as sarcastic. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings - that wasn't my intent. The birth of my children was also wonderful, amazing and spiritual, as I mentioned in my blog, and certainly not in the sarcastic vein that you interpreted it as. I was talking about how I imagined childbirth while pregnant - the emotions I expected to experience and how I pictured myself coming triumphant through the trials and labor. And then after I experienced that thrill and excitement and love and all the other accompanying emotions and had done everything I was supposed to do - then what? I was pointing out that I had never actually imagined the moments beyond the birth until the instructor brought it up. I'm glad she did - it totally altered my perception.

Again - I feel as if you are missing the entire point of my post. I have had several people approach me about publishing as if I suddenly have this font of knowledge to draw from and I have no clue on how to answer their questions. I understand that - because I felt the same way before I published a book. That those who had gone before me must have all the answers.

I certainly didn't expect to receive answers without work (although I am still open to that if anyone would like to give me the Mother's Guide to Perfect Children or How to Be a A New York Times Bestseller With Every Book), and I worked very, very hard both in giving birth and in writing a book. I'm also not throwing a fit that I didn't get ALL the answers that I wanted like some sort of petulant child. Nor did I discourage anyone else from undergoing anything - just pointing out that being published doesn't suddenly make you an expert as some people mistakenly believe (a belief I sort of held myself without realizing it). I imagine that I will continue to learn new things about publishing for the rest of my life.

And Bill Cosby did make reference to the lower lip in one of his stand-up routines, but if you'd like to do a Google search for Carol Burnett quotes you'll see that the quote is indeed attributed to her (and in all likelihood Cosby incorporated her quote into his act).

At 8/14/2006 7:46 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

And in case I didn't make this clear enough, no, I did NOT "expect" all the keys. I only stated that I did not have them in either situation. This is not a matter of expectation, but apparely one of misinterpretation. It's an unfortunate side effect of blogging and emails - people can't hear your tone or read your body language and sometimes find offense where none was meant.

At 8/14/2006 8:31 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Anonymous, please understand the following:

A mother needs to be in tune and work with her doctor for each individual child. If you feel your ability as a mother was enhanced by a certain birthing method then maybe you are responding to revelation for YOUR time and season. Perhaps it was a tender mercy in the midst of "discomfort" and truly that is a blessing.

To see humor in a situation is not the same as mocking. Comparing labor pains to any other worthy endeavor is not mocking.

Sheri Dew gave a beautiful talk on motherhood and it's spirtuality. How it is part of who we are regardless of whether or not we even have children.

Sariah, I have often felt life should come with a "Now What?" manual. Graduation, marriage, career, house buying, etc. It reminds me of when I was a kid and grownups always knew what to do and then I grew up and realized they had just been faking it.


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