As I get my third book ready to send off to the publisher, it reminds me of the preparations we made for the birth of my last son, many years ago: the suitcase packed, the hospital on notice, the preparations made for when the baby arrived home, the nanny employed, the relatives overseas notified. Life was to become disruptive once more, before the addition was absorbed into our daily routine. In the case of the book, the parallels are all there: the contract signed, the last proof copy read, re•read and re•typed a hundred times until the sentences read backwards in my sleep, the reviewers lined up, the fans alerted. Nothing can be allowed to go wrong, for this fragile creation – the book (or the baby) – could perish if exposed inappropriately to a hostile world.
The nine months of pre•production for the book is like the pregnancy period, the book launch is the christening, the round of readings at stores, literary festivals, libraries and book clubs are the “showings”, the book reviews in the newspaper are like the gossip columns announcing that Mr and Mrs So•and•So were blessed with a beautiful baby (only these gossip columns will be kinder than the book reviews).
And then, what? Depression will set in once the book is off on its way (post•partum blues or empty nester syndrome, or both?) The book will take on a life of its own and either survive or die; it will get into libraries and book shops, and remain there for as long as the subject matter, or the writer, is of interest – just like my son will enter the workforce one day and be employed for as long as he is useful. Prizes may, or may not, follow (similar to university and college degrees, or weddings and business honours for the son) and each will extend the profile of the book (or son) a bit further. And finally, the old book (or my aged son) will find its (his) way into a family library (nursing home) where it (he) will gather dust until a future generation resurrects it (him) into new life (re•incarnation on earth for those who believe in it), by re•publishing the book (a great, great…grandson will born and old relatives will exclaim “Goodness, he look just like the photograph of his great…grandfather”).
So why do we do it? I mean, why do we write books long after our creative urge to procreate is curbed, thwarted or dead? Are we born creators who can never stop? And do we die when we stop creating? I remember the old man in the nursing home who continued painting to keep his sanity, and the woman beside him knitting to keep her fingers nimble, and her companion reading a book through heavy lenses, peering hard at the pages at letters that were barely visible to her, while about the three of them sat the other inmates, comatose and drugged out of their minds, not even sure if they were in this world or in the next.
There seems to be no choice but to keep writing and producing these “babies” • keeping the Reaper in check.