3 Lessons From Writing That Help With Motherhood and Recovery

When I was pregnant, I was convinced that I was having a girl, and had already started planning accordingly. Of course I found out:

“Guess What? It’s a boy!”

Oh, Okay. I thought. Hmmm… Time to reset the expectations. Or better yet, let’s just allow what is being grown to emerge as it (or He) needs. 

1. Expectations are Resentments Waiting to Happen.

That is a recovery quote from Alcoholics Anonymous. Another is “Resentments are like eating rat poison yourself and then waiting for the rat to die.” A bit harsh, but applicable. Pregnancy, motherhood, and writing are all about letting go of your expectations and allowing what needs to emerge come forth in its own way.

My book is in that place. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her fabulous book, Big Magic:

big magic 2

I had this plan: the title, the table of contents, the “target audience.” And now something else is emerging. The ideas come, and I channel them onto the paper. I have a plan, and then I chuck it (or the part that’s not working) out the window, as something else emerges. Writing a book is like birthing a baby.

I’m not talking about an epidural or 48 hours of convulsing with medication-free pain so intense you thought you were dying. That is reserved for actual labor and delivery. Motherhood, however, along with the creative process (and, of course, recovery), do share some similarities with the birth process.

2. You get to show up for the work, You don’t get to decide the timeline.

I have been writing a book since my little one was 3 months old (little one is now six. Years.) And, even though I would really like to be in control of the process, it is taking on a life of its own. It is emerging in its own timeline. The plan was finish the book when baby was 1 year. Ha! Just like the “birth plan” (note the quotes) for labor and delivery, the plan needs to change as needed. (Who wouldn’t love to have a three – or even six – hour labor and delivery experience? Pain-free with no complications? But that’s not how it works. We all have a birth plan, and then we all go through actual labor and delivery. It is rare that the two exactly match up.)

Your job is to show up for the process, one moment at a time and give your best effort. That’s it. That’s true in writing a book, birthing a baby, and the long journey of motherhood ahead. The thing I remember most about labor experience, despite the altar I had set up, the music, the doula, the whole rainbow-and-flowers plan I had, is the clock on the wall. Watching the second hands tick on the clock on the wall got me through every contraction. I didn’t have “look at the clock ticking” on my birth plan. But that is what helped me stay present, 1 second, 1 moment, 1 hour at a time.

 3. Don’t Let Fear Run the Show.

Here’s another great quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:
“Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”

My little one and I often play a game called “walk through the fear.” Like many little ones, he’s afraid of the dark. So we set up one dark room (it may need a night-light on 🙂 ) and one light room. Then we walk through the dark room back into the light. Again and again. Fear is not allowed to run the show. It can join in and participate as we move. But it is not allowed to keep us paralyzed. In writing, that translates to keep writing. Write a lot of (what Anne Lamott calls) “shitty first drafts.” But keep writing. (Or working on our recovery or traveling through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and motherhood).

Also, when fear pops up (as in recently when a great idea emerged about a new direction that this book I’m writing probably needs to take), notice it. Fear has two jobs:  1) protect vulnerability and 2) prevent change. So whenever it arises, you can notice it, thank it, and continue moving in exactly that direction. That’s right: continue moving in the direction that fear is trying to get you to avoid. Let fear be your guide instead of your road block. What’s in the way is the way.  I will be with you in this walking-through-fear journey. And this new version of my book, which I thought was a “girl,” but apparently wants to be a “boy”!

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