As some of you know, for years I worked at a publishing house as an acquisitions editor. I evaluated all sorts of book proposals (including one by an author who claimed his was the only book of its kind written by someone resurrected from the dead). I sat across the desk from dozens of authors, helping them to develop their ideas, fix their grammar, and create something they could be proud to pressure their friends and family into buying. And so, when it came time to write my own book, I thought, How hard can it be? Well, it turns out I had a lot to learn on this side of the desk. In honor of the publication of my first book, Mommy A to Z (on sale June 2), here is a list of the top 5 things I’ve learned about putting one’s (sort of) brilliant thoughts into book form.
1. Creativity can be exhausting. Yes, I had lots of ideas, and at times my words burst forth in majestic streams, like rising fountains at the Bellagio. However, much like at the real Bellagio, inside my head were lots of gambles that weren’t paying off — cheesy comedy (exhibit A), awkward metaphors, anecdotes about which I was already apologetically mumbling, “I guess you had to be there.” It felt like I spent hours rewriting each page I wrote, until I was too worn out to do anything at the end of the day except watch The Walking Dead on Netflix. (Apparently, battling a dangling participle is much less exhausting than battling zombies.)
2. Mommy’s busy. So what? Turns out that toddlers and preschoolers don’t really care about book authorship. Yes, I may have had a stroke of genius in need of instant immortalization. Too bad. My daughter wants string cheese, and she wants it N-O-W! My son doesn’t care that Mommy has planned a post-bedtime write-a-thon. He is convinced his crib sheet is out to get him, he needs comforting right away. The truth is that, unless you have an office in Siberia and some pretty solid childcare, writing a book can often feel like an illicit activity, to be sneaked in between the real work of life.
3. Suddenly I’m that girl. Even after years of working with text for a living, I found myself needing constant reassurance. Each time I read my work to my family or friends, there I was, waiting on the edge of my seat for the tiniest compliment. In my desperation to be loved, “it doesn’t suck” became the ultimate validation of my worth. Self-confidence goes out the window when you put your creative vision out there.
4. Everyone else is doing it. When you tell people you’re writing a book, you suddenly discover that everyone has a half-written manuscript lurking on his or her laptop. Your Great Aunt Alice is writing her memoirs. Your colleague who never speaks is penning a novel he describes as “post-Apocalyptic cyborg erotica.” This can be daunting. Is your story special? Is everyone further along than you? Do they know something you don’t? Probably. But they don’t know your story, and you’re the only one who can tell it. Even if it doesn’t involve cyborgs getting frisky.
5. Writing is a long, long process. And it takes a long time. Okay, people who spend years writing a book are probably spending way too much time watching dancing kittens on YouTube. But a finished book doesn’t happen overnight. It generally takes constant work, every day, for months. That said, it was work that I loved, that was meaningful, and that, one day, will probably embarrass my kids. I can’t think of too many better investments of my time.
While I saw a lot of manuscripts as an editor, I rarely got a glimpse at the obstacles, hard work, and small victories that went into creating them. Now, having written my first book, I’ve looked behind the curtain. No, it’s not always pretty, but the writing process is rewarding, exhausting, and, in the end, culminates in a pretty big accomplishment — even if you do end up begging your friends and family to buy it.
The Mommy A to Z eBook goes on sale June 2. Check out the Mommy A to Z website, featuring excerpts, links to buy the book, and more. And visit the Mommy A to Z Facebook page and Twitter for updates, contests, and more!