I had a wonderful, but short, texting conversation with someone recently.
A year ago, I asked my friend’s daughter to design a book cover for me for a book that I had just began working on. I thought, “You know, I just published four books. I should be able to whip out another one by the spring, so I had better get a jump start on the cover.” Except… well, as I told my friend in the text, “I would love, love, love to have it finished ASAP, but I’ve found I can’t make a story happen – I’ve got to be patient until it grows on its own.”
Her response was basically perfect.
“Good luck with your baby books until they grow.”
Any writer will tell you that writer’s block is for real. And it’s way more complex than the name makes it sound. There’s a lot wrapped up in those twelve little letters.
On the one hand, we writers may experience a lack of inspiration for writing a particular part of a story (or a story altogether). Or we may simply not know how to resolve a conflict our characters are having. Or we may need to do more research in order to write a scene, character, setting, etc – and, worse, we may not have the time or resources at that moment to do the research. Or we may have spent days/weeks/months writing a story – only to decide we need to go back to a certain point much earlier in the story and scrap everything we just labored over.
In a lot of ways, creating a publish-worthy novel is like carrying a baby to full-term. There are miscarriages along the way. Bouts of infertility where we desire something that just isn’t happening. And just because we were able to do it once is no guarantee that we’ll be able to do it again.
Like my own biological infertility story, my book infertility story is one marred with trials.
I’ve had lots of book miscarriages. Too many to count. Books that were conceived in my brain – many that actually made it into a Word doc – but that, at some point or another, failed to keep growing.
I’ve had times when a book was conceived and, then, frozen in time, like a little tiny cryo-freezed embryo in an IVF clinic. Then, when the time was right, I thawed that little book baby and waited to see if it would “take”.
None of them ever did… so far.
I’ve had a lot of baby books that got me excited. “Something’s really happening here. I can feel it!” Metaphorically, there was nausea. Cramps. Back aches. Spotting. (Ok, maybe this is getting too gross, but now you’ve got a great visual.) But, then, like countless of its big siblings, it passed away.
But there was that one time…
You know – or maybe you don’t – my husband and I adopted three kids… at once. We got them bam, bam, bam. In eight weeks, we went from zero kids to three.
And I had a book series like that. Like the call about my kids, it came out of nowhere.
“They’re here! They’re ready! Do you want them?”
A rejoicing “Yes!” was heard in both cases.
And they grew. Much, much larger than I had expected.
It was supposed to be one book. Then, two. Then, maybe, a trilogy. Then, out of nowhere, a fourth one arrived like a mighty torrent of Angel Falls proportions. “How did I not see you all the first time around?” I wondered.
So, one became four.
And four became complete.
And then the waiting for the next one began…
It’s felt like a long wait. And the cycles of old have returned.
Stillbirths. False positives. A month goes by without any changes.
“What are you writing next?” I’ve been asked countless times.
“Really not sure anymore,” I can say in all honesty. “Maybe a middle grade fantasy novel. Maybe a futuristic dystopian. Maybe just a contemporary women’s drama. Don’t know. They’re all in the works.”
And there’s a piece of me that wonders if, like my children, another series (or stand-alone, perhaps) will show up on my doorstep one day, it’s growth an inevitability all on its own that I’m just there to feed and rock to bed at night as my laptop gently whirrs itself to sleep and admire because I really am not the one growing it but because it is being grown by God.
So, as I did with infertility, I hope. I wait. I do all the fertile things that need doing, like writing daily, jotting down ideas, reading others’ helpful tips, keeping up my blog. And, slowly, I’m finding comfort in where I am, a reassurance that happiness can be found amidst the struggles you never intended to have, and hope is just the pleasant companion of waiting.
I’ll wait because, like my kids, my four published books were more than worth the wait last time. And I hope the next time is just a wonderful.