It was about seven or eight years ago that I sat on my couch with a friend, sipping coffee and catching up, while our kids played upstairs. I was about 6 months pregnant with yet another surrogate baby.
“I plan to write a book,” I declared. “Two books in fact.”
“Wow, really?” my friend said, taking another sip of her coffee. “About what?” she asked, as she carefully set down the cup.
I took a deep breath and said “Well, the first will be about my experiences as a surrogate mother, and I see the second one as something related to creativity in the family.”
“I can totally see it,” cheered my friend. Then she added “And when you say you’re going to do something, you always mean it. I’m excited to read them!”
Fast forward to about two years ago. No progress had been made on either of the books. In fact the idea of actually writing a book, let alone two of them, seemed as farfetched as having babies in my mid-forties.
I was talking with that same friend again but this time we were at her house, and we sat outside on her deck. She had a new garden chair, and I was in love with it.
It was made of a plastic-like wicker and hung from a stand, so when you sat in the chair you could move freely – you could rock back and forth, swing side to side, spin around, or even bounce. I loved how you could hang out and talk yet still bounce and twirl around a little bit and it wasn’t the least bit inappropriate. I was smitten with that chair and wanted one for myself.
Until I looked it up online and saw the price. Youch! It was well outside of our budget for something as extravagant as a garden chair we did not need.
But I saw myself sitting in that chair (well, bouncing and spinning, really) and writing in my backyard. Gazing out into the trees with fingers clicking at the keyboard. Listening to the songs of the crickets and the birds and the crunch of the squirrels bounding through the leaves and slow moving cars passing on the street, all humming in the background as my thoughts and feelings formed into sentences. The smell of honeysuckle in the summer and fireplaces in the fall, pages growing into chapters on the screen.
I wanted to write to those sounds, to those sights, to those smells. I wanted to write to those motions – twirling and swaying in that chair.
That image was stuck in my mind; it was around then that I started blogging regularly.
Doug and I continued to comb the discount and overstock furniture sites for that chair, we even stalked a few thrift stores. No affordable chair was to be found.
I kept on writing, mostly in the house on the couch or at my sewing table or on the floor or sometimes at coffee shops, and I kept on posting to my blog. I joined an autobiographical writing group and started putting my surrogacy experiences down on paper in the form of themed essays.
I performed a version of one of those essays at Listen to Your Mother in May and as I kept on writing, I saw the shadowy outlines of a memoir start to emerge. Was this the book I had spoken of years ago, coming into focus? I thought perhaps it was, but I wasn’t sure.
I started my Motherhood by Design series in January of this year, and greatly enjoyed it (I still do). As I saw the variety of responses I was getting back from the interview guests, I was struck by how many of the themes were aligned with much of the writing I had done on the topic of making and motherhood (but have not published anywhere, not even on the blog). Huh, I thought to myself.
I wondered what to make of the fact that these themes were recurrent for me, and they were ideas I was continually drawn to. Could it be, I wondered to myself? Noooooo. No, no, no, I don’t think so.
Maybe this is the second book starting to make its way into the world? One of the two books I’d spoken of eight years ago, but let languish in the everyday crush of non-profit work, mothering, homeschooling, marriage, pregnancies, hobbies, and more. Maybe?
I think so, maybe.
Fast forward to today. I have a book coming out soon, very soon! I will spill all the beans on that in next week’s blog post, but I’ll tell you that it’s not the surrogacy memoir nor is it the book on creativity and motherhood. It’s actually a shorter book that’s meant to pave the way for the surrogacy memoir.
My plan was to get this short book out into the world and then work on the memoir in earnest. Now you may already know this, but in case not, you’re about to find out. Some books are written in their entirety and then pitched to agents, while others you write a book proposal first and if a publisher decides they like it, then you actually write the whole book.
Memoirs can go either way – you can write the whole thing and pitch it, or you can write the proposal and pitch that. My plan was the latter, since I have several sample essays written already – so I planned to start working on my book proposal shortly after launching this first initial book. I was super-excited to work on the proposal, being a formula-loving geek and all. I was really ready to dig into the research and somewhat technical writing already. Let’s get this show on the road, I thought!
Two weeks ago I took my breakfast and my laptop out to the deck to work for a few hours before yoga class. I was mentally bogged down with some projects and decided to give myself a break by researching memoir book proposals.
And it was then that I discovered that in my specific case, it was probably a better idea to write my whole book first before diving into the book proposal.
I was a little deflated. OK, I was a lot deflated in that moment.
I had mentally planned to dive deeply into the proposal development process, not start mining the intense emotions that come with all of my surrogacy stories. “No, no, NO,” I thought to myself, “I can’t go there! Not now! I’m ready for some technical writing, not the soul-searching and emotionally-wrenching writing I need to do in order to get this memoir out of my heart and into the world. NO.”
But what choice did I have? If I wanted to get this book published, it was clear I had to write the whole thing, then pitch it to agents. Logically, I knew this was the right way to go.
My heart, however, was very slow to come around to this new plan.
Feeling somewhat dejected, a lot overwhelmed, and definitely resigned, I slapped the laptop lid down and got ready for yoga. I was hoping that 90 minutes of reflection on the mat would help me see this latest discovery in a more positive light.
And it did help. I finished class with a limp body and an open heart, accompanied by a much more zen feeling from letting myself acknowledge my deflated feelings but also starting to feel the kindling glow of a creative spark just starting to catch. I still wasn’t thrilled about it, but I was coming to accept that my next several months would be a deeply emotional challenge. I would not be researching and making notes, writing in short, succinct paragraphs, but instead I would be writing, writing, and writing some more, letting my story out into the world. I came to terms with the fact that there would be nothing I was going to do more than write for the next many months.
It didn’t yet feel good, but it felt real, and that was going to have to be enough for now.
I drove home from class and Doug met me outside on the front porch. He said my birthday gift was ready and I should close my eyes.
I closed them tightly and he took my arm to lead me through the house. We snaked our way through the foyer, through the kitchen, through my art room and I tried not to trip on dog toys or soccer shoes. Finally we made it to the French doors leading out to our deck.
He told me to open my eyes.
And there was the chair that I had been wanting for years.
The one I had always pictured myself writing in.
And now I was certain it was time to write.