I guess I should start this by saying that I’ve never had a baby. But still, I am pretty sure that writing a novel is not like giving birth. You may wonder why I am bringing this up, but having recently finished THE SILVER GIRL, people are asking me how it feels to have just “just given birth.” I just don’t think the metaphor works.
For one thing, when it comes to pregnancy, you know pretty much when it will be over. You have a due date and the birth happens at the end of nine months, ready or not. As for a novel, who knows how long it will take. And with babies, you don’t get to revise. Another difference is that babies are the most chill when they are in the womb. When they are born, the real drama starts. With novel, you wrestle with it for years and then it turns into this docile little hardcover. (I guess like having a kid, the book has to go into the world without you, but you don’t really raise a book. You don't have to save for it's education or worry about whether it resents you.) I guess the real way that you can tell that the metaphor doesn’t work is by turning it around—can you imagine me going to visit a friend in the maternity ward and asking, “Don’t you feel like you have just written a novel!”
I have heard writers themselves say that finishing a novel is like giving brith. I wonder if that's just the language we use in order to help others understand the seriousness of our work. I mean, who doesn't respect the institution of motherhood? Whenever I publish a novel, my mom sends out an announcement celebrating the birth of her new "grandbook." (This is a true story.) I can see the allure of such parallels, but for me, they just don't hold up.
I’ve been trying to think of a more appropriate metaphor. But really, I can’t think of anything in my life so far that is similar to the experience of writing and finishing a novel. And that's beauty of it.