Is there a writer on earth who hasn't, in one way or other, compared the production of a book to childbirth? Can we not see how cliche it's become to refer to a novel as "my baby," or to say we are sending our children out into the world when we really mean we are submitting our manuscripts for publication?
Maybe we see it, but the cliche persists for the reason all cliches persist: it's true, so very, very true.
For instance, one way writing a novel is like having children is that it is all-absorbing. You go to sleep thinking about your characters and wake up the same way. Day after day they disrupt your life, demand attention, wear your patience, and yet you love them, and the proof is that daily you submit yourself to their abuse.
The other way writing a novel is like having a baby is that you gain weight - at least if you're not careful.
My first time, I was not careful. For six months, we ate Hot Pockets for dinner. That's only a slight exaggeration. Sometimes my husband brought home hamburgers.
I am not a person who ought to gain weight on purpose, so when I began to write a second novel - on purpose - I figured I needed a better plan.
It turned out to be chicken breasts. Where I live, you can buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts in what they call "Family Packs." Someone at the store has assumed we all have enormous families, because there are about seven or eight big-enough-for-two chunks o' meat in there.
So the idea was, at the beginning of the week, to put all of those breasts into a Pyrex baking dish, dump a can of broth or onion soup on top, and bake. Then, throughout the week, we would have:
- Chicken tacos
- Chicken and veggie stir-fry
- Chicken wraps
- Chicken and bean soup
- Chicken Caesar salad
- Chicken over pasta
- Chicken surprise (Bet you've already guessed what the surprise is.)
However, a couple of recent events have me rethinking my plan once again:
1) I watched Julie & Julia, a wonderful film. Now I have Meryl Streep on my desktop wallpaper, I've got the soundtrack playing on iTunes, and I have a new desire to cook sensually and joyfully. But not lobster - this girl doesn't drop living creatures into boiling water, though she's happy enough to eat the results when someone else does. And not boef bourguignon - I do want to get my writing done as well.So I thought I'd put the question to you. No, I'm not asking for recipes (though I'd be loath to refuse them), but for your thoughts and best ideas for surviving well this life of writing stories. What difficulties have you faced and conquered - or not conquered? How do you keep your house decent, your family loved, your boss happy? Or maybe just: how do you keep your health?
2) In simultaneously cooking dinner for friends and finding a use for a gigantic zucchini I'd been given, I rediscovered the recipe for ratatouille. I'd forgotten how much I loved chopping fresh vegetables and herbs, simmering a big pot on the stove, tasting, adjusting seasonings, and tasting again. And to think that it was all vegetables! A person like me needs a lot of recipes for fabulous vegetables.
Please, do tell.