Friday, September 23, 2011

All My WIP Children

As authors, we often refer to our books as our children.  At conception, those little babes fill us with joy and anticipation.  We imagine their future in every detail and nurture the concept until it is fully formed and ready for the real labor.  Oy!  You think 15 or 20 or 30 hours of labor is tough, try two years!

As each WIP grows, it takes on a personality of its own.  You love them all, but you can't help but compare them sometimes and realize that each one needs a very different kind of discipline.

One WIP has you running non-stop right from the start and you're always excited to see what he's going to do next.  He takes risks and isn't afraid to get a little dirty or scuffed up.  Blunders are just another nugget of gold waiting to be mined.  And he does not like to wait...for anything.  He's that child of wonder who is always discovering some glorious secret that he can't keep.  He inspires you and sucks the life out of you at the same time, but you always know that eventually he will "wow" the world if he gets the chance.

Your next WIP is not so gregarious.  This shy little bud needs more coaxing.  She is brilliant, but hyper critical of herself and afraid to put a foot wrong.  She becomes fixated on some ridiculous detail and can't move on until it is just right.  Yep.  This is your perfectionist.  Completely obsessed with the details. And though you try to hide it, she knows you expect more out of her than the others. Before you know it, those unspoken expectations have spun out of control and cranked up the pressure until performance anxiety almost cripples her.  The best thing to do is take a spa day (or two or three) and have a make-over.  She'll need a heart-to-heart reminder that she is just as awesome as your other WIPs. She's just different.

And somewhere there is that sweet, quiet, parent-pleaser who is just waiting for her chance to shine.  This was your first.  She had to be the test subject, the kid who got to endure all your early parental mistakes and experimental discipline.  There were no hand-me-downs, but her hand-made clothes were a bit cheap and unfinished. You hadn't quite learned how to cut the patterns and sew yet. Amazingly, she still has her dream intact.  She just waits patiently to see if she'll get another chance to go to the ball or the parade or whatever it will turn out to be.  No judgement.  No grudges. Just hope.

It's the shy one who is giving me fits now.  I'm hoping that she is a gifted child in the end, and that these are just her perfectionist growing pains.  That I'll be able to unlock her inhibitions and give her a little more faith in herself so she can really take off.  After the first spa day, she is starting to loosen up a bit.  She is still a little afraid of the big finale, but I think I can get her there.  Soon.


  1. Bet you love all your babies, Mary Ann. But the shy ones require more care, and tug at the heart. I never wish a special child to be normalized- in life or in art. There are these moments I almost do, wishing them an easier path. Then the palm-on forehead-slap comes, to remind me what you know already, and eloquently posted here.

  2. Thank you so much, Mirka. My human daughter is one of those special babies and that is exactly the experience I have with her. I wish it were an easier path, but oh, the magnificent journey she is leading us all on. :-)

  3. You've got me thinking.

    I have 2 such children in progress right now.

    One is an erratic teen and the other a child prodigy! (It's so easy to feel that way about them in their infant stage!)

    I would love to be spending my time with the infant because I see so much promise there. But I know my teen needs me to stick it out with her. After a few years of working on her, I am weary. Trying to take those "spa" breaks - give myself time to process and just do other things but I also recognize they can simply be a form of procrastination.

    Of course I have a parent please tucked away in one of my filing cabinet drawers. Not going to think about giving that one another chance right now! But I did realize that the themes therein have continued to present themselves in all my subsequent manuscripts.

  4. Oh Lord, I've got the perfectionist on my hands right now. This is a new me, a new WIP - I am line editing to distraction - it's going to take forever!

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  6. Good luck with that shy one, Mary Ann. I like the analogy that you've drawn here. Perhaps it will help me be gentler with myself and my WIP.


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