"There's no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids."
--- Stephen King
Because it's not like that. It's deeper than that, and it's something I feel quite helpless about. And---bottom line?----I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in the feeling.
I've done many a blog about writing books being pretty much the same as birthing babies. And, oh, let me tell you. It is the same. Boy, is it ever.
There's that beauty of carrying them inside you. There's the glorious mix of pain and joy upon giving birth to them. Beautiful infants, brand new to the world. As all babies ARE beautiful, I believe. All children, so many shapes, sizes, heritages, are beautiful. ALL of them.
There's the bittersweet moment when they take on the world by themselves. First days of school. First parties. First away-camps. First swimming lesson. First baseball team. First boyfriend or girlfriend. First prom. First broken heart. First rejection---whether it's trying out for a team or a young romance going bust.
And for every good and bad thing our kids experience, we unfortunately----or maybe it isn't so unfortunate, but a blessing---are right there in the trenches with them. To hurt, to smile, to wonder with them. To somehow know just the right words to say to help them make sense of it. We can't make the bad stuff go away, but we at lease try to offer a mental band-aid to make it better or, at the very least, a shoulder.
So, for me, the question is: why, oh, why, can't I disassociate myself as the mother of my book once my 'baby' has been released into the world? Why can't I draw a line between being a real mother to a living, breathing child and being a mother to a...book?
Because my book is also, to me anyway, a living breathing being. The characters in it are as real to me as my actual child. After all, they sprung from the seeds in my heart and mind, they matured inside me until they blossomed into words from my pen. They SPOKE to me with voices as strong and individual as any humans I ever met.
I embraced them, nurtured them, loved them. Like real children, they aren't just random images in my head. They are all individuals, every one of them. With names and distinct personalities. Some of them I even cry over, I love and hurt so much for them.
That being said...
Just like with our own children, how to we reconcile ourselves to how our written babies are accepted out there, once they hit the world? Once they are out of our hands?
I'll be honest. I'm only a human. And I'm a mother. How DO I settle it with myself when my book runs head on into a bad review? Or worse---when nobody wants to even read my baby?
Where does an author find the strength to steel themselves when they see their book out there---like their child on the playground when none of the kids wants to play with him/her---sitting untouched and with little interest? Or---oh, gods forbid---when the other kids attack? When someone dares to say our baby is not pretty? When someone laughs at our darlings?
I agree 100% with others who say we have no control over any of it. And I agree that we have to resign ourselves to that.
Since I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in my feelings, I battle with the silliness I feel because I CAN'T just sit back and not FEEL all sorts of emotions with my book's reception---whether it's good or bad.
I beamed when my daughter received awards in school. You're damn right I did. With no reservations. And I ached at every rejection that came her way. Hopefully, though, I taught her modesty with the good things. And grace with the bad.
And I reckon those two---modesty and grace---must apply to my emotions with my book children as well.
I won't let the praise---if and when it should come---keep me from continuing to learn, to continue to make my work the best it can be. I won't let the criticism and the rejection keep me from continuing on.
I forgive myself, though, for FEELING about what happens to my book babies. I will allow myself to feel about them, even after they've debuted in the world. I will no longer deny to myself that it DOES hurt to see a book not 'make it'....to see a book not be selected for review by sites...to see a bad review.
No, I can't do anything about it, and yes, I must accept it.
But I will FEEL. Good or bad, I will FEEL. Because I AM a bitch mother and I AM afraid for my babies whether I'm supposed to be or not and I can no easier turn off my feelings about a book baby than I can my flesh and blood child.
I'm just human. And it's okay.