Although I am childless myself, I do realise that having a baby is a vastly more significant experience than writing a book. But it seems to me there are many parallels between the two processes, so I hope nobody will be offended by this light-hearted comparison between them.
The time it takes to write a book can vary from weeks to years, but I have heard that the average is about nine months – the same as a full-term pregnancy – though it is usually impossible to tell exactly when it began.
Just as many pregnancies never reach full term, many manuscripts are abandoned for various reasons before they are finished. Some come to a premature end, their writers so impatient to see them in print that they submit them for publication before they are fully formed, and usually have them rejected. Others become overdue because they are continually being revised in the quest for perfection.
Publication day, though hopefully less painful than labour, is almost as exciting as giving birth!
Good care for mothers and babies both before and after the birth is important, and the same is true for writers and their books. Writers need to avoid the physical and mental health hazards associated with their occupation. And even if they do not enjoy marketing, they need to look after their published book if they want it to flourish.
Post-natal depression, linked to both hormonal and social changes, is fairly common among mothers who have recently given birth. And some writers feel low after finishing a book, though for different reasons. There is a sense of anticlimax and, in my own experience, the best treatment is starting to write another one.
However, inspiration does not come to order, and the equivalent of infertility is writer’s block.
Some people can cope perfectly well with having large families, but others produce more children than they can look after properly. Similarly, while some authors have enough talent and energy to be able to write a whole series of good quality books, others keep churning out new ones even though they have run out of original plots, settings and characters and become careless about composing their prose.
Lastly, just as the child eventually develops its own personality, becomes independent and in the natural course of events will survive longer than its parents, there comes a point when a book takes on a life of its own. You cannot predict or control the outcome but, just as your children will perpetuate some of your genes, your books will form part of your legacy.