Books Are Like Children?

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Raising a book is hard work. Even your best words can fall short.

Most authors probably have said it at least once: Their books are like children. I certainly don’t disagree with that familiar sentiment, but when I say those same words about my books I think I mean them differently.

A book is an idea that is conceived and then given birth, not as a mature work, but first as a crying, crawling, demanding, constantly moving, unmanageable mess of words. As a writer I love it, and yet I’m not always sure what to do with it. With patience and discipline, though, those words soon begin to grow up. And I find myself finding great joy and delight in this child that God has put into my hands.

That childhood is short-lived, though. Seemingly without warning, or at least without enough warning, the adolescence of editorial changes and copy-editing conflicts forces me to accept that my book’s delightful childhood is now just a fond memory. This new phase of its life quickly confronts nostalgia, and leaves me reeling, doubting my adequacy as a literary parent, wondering why I ever thought that having a book would be a good idea. It reminds me that book raising is hard work, and that even my best words can fall short.

But then, in the turn of a page, my work of words becomes a mature book. The thing I thought would never grow up is suddenly ready to leave home and make a life in the land of the reading. I marvel that I’m no longer embarrassed to introduce my now grown-up literary child to others. And though I still privately cringe at hearing my book saying something to them, I allow myself to think that it sounds better than I ever thought it would.

For me, a book is not like a baby, or a little child, or even a teenager. It is an adult child. I love it, and I can help it find its way into the world of other books where it will now live, but ultimately it’s on its own. And, as its parent, that is rewarding, but also frightening. All I can do is pray, “Lord, take this book and make it yours.” It’s out of my hands.

And that’s what I mean when I say my books are like children.