In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, let’s discuss a popular, but loaded term in the writing world that means something good, but can have some unintended, negative consequences.
What’s the phrase? Book Baby
Perhaps you’ve heard the following examples:
I just signed a contract. I’m having a book baby, y’all!
It’s almost time! My book baby arrives next month!
Look, most every writer that I know has used this phrase at one point or another, including me. (Guys may not use this phrase as much, but I suspect that they may groove with the concept).
Like a pregnant mother, some writers see their Book Baby as a much-anticipated project that must be nourished and nurtured from inception to delivery*. Over the long days and nights, writers see themselves incubating their project within the warm, protected walls of their writing spaces. Then, just like the miracle of birth, many authors have miraculous stories that frame their book baby’s journey, whether a divinely timed meeting with an agent or editor or a viral social post that catapulted a platform.
The phrase Book Baby is a metaphor that captures the forward-thinking dreams, heightened emotions and potentially life-changing nature of writing a book or the publishing process.
This is why the phrase Book Baby is loaded. Please know that I’m not demeaning the phrase or calling writers to stop using it. This post offers a reminder to be careful about where your manuscript or book sits in the emotional stratosphere of your life. Books aren’t babies. Yes, you know this. But sometimes, we’ve got to be reminded of what we know. When writers are too emotionally attached to their projects, it can set them up for unrealistic expectations, unhealthy stubbornness or crushing disappointment.
While it’s important for you to be passionate and committed to writing, there are some drawbacks when you’re fixed and focused on a specific outcome for a project.
When you’re overly emotionally invested in your Book Baby:
…You may develop blind spots when it comes to seeing the realities of the publishing market and the salability of your project;
…You will likely struggle to invite helpful critique or listen to trusted voices who suggest necessary changes to your work;
…You may want to protect yourself or your book from rejection so you avoid taking risks, like contacting an important influencer or investing in the support that you need for a strong book launch
Finally, one of the riskiest consequences of overly-emotional investment is a reluctance to put the manuscript aside when it isn’t capturing the interest of an agent or editor.
Here’s the bottom line on this difficult conversation: Books aren’t babies, but they are precious. Celebrate your words because you’ve written them, not because you’re putting expectations on what you want from them.
Today’s post was inspired by a friend’s Instagram story on Mother’s Day. She was standing in a field of wheat cradling a tiny baby bump. It was a baby that she knew that she’d never have due to her pain-filled battle with endometriosis, which would not allow her body to support a pregnancy to term. But, my friend captured that meaningful pregnancy moment anyways.
Writer friends, while you may write words that will never be published, every single one of your words can be celebrated. As you look at your writing words today, smile at your screen or if you write like Barack Obama, smile at your yellow notepad**. Even if you delete all of those words in a few hours, they matter because you wrote them. Each of those words, no matter where they end up, are all important steps in your writing journey.
Celebrate what you’ve written, challenge yourself to stay flexible and remain curious and open-handed about how your idea, manuscript or finished book will turn out.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What are the pros and cons of the phrase “Book Baby”? Are there some clues that indicate when a writer is overly emotionally attached to a writing project? How do you keep from getting too attached?
*Okay, there’s whole, controversial national debate on reproductive rights. This post does not represent any point of view, so no assumptions should be made based on any particular word choice.
**According to a number of sources, former President Obama wrote his best-selling memoir on a series of yellow notepads, not a laptop.