20 Ways Writing is (or isn’t) Like Parenthood

“Mothers are all slightly insane.” – J.D. Salinger

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” – E. L. Doctorow

The first time I recall asking my mom how babies are made, she told me that when a man and a woman love each other they pray about it, then the mommy gets pregnant. All through kindergarten I feared that God might mistake any thought I had about babies for prayer and plop a fetus in my belly. (Agh!) If a stomach ache followed, I knew I was in trouble.

Thank goodness it’s not that easy. You know what else isn’t easy? Writing and publishing. Imagine if all we had to do was think about our stories and POOF—fertilized…

Ha! Totally unintentional, where those sperm are semi-swiming...

Ha! Totally unintentional where the sperm are sort of heading…

During my e-book launch in December, I asked you all to tell me how you felt writing was like or unlike pregnancy and parenting. Your answers kept me thoroughly entertained and have proven to me that while there are significant difference between the two, valid parallels exist. I’ve woven some of your answers into the following list.

20 Ways Writing is Like Parenthood

1. The initial seed (idea) feels miraculous.

2. Not every story idea turns out to be Mr./Mrs. Right. Spending too much time with the “wrong” ideas can keep us from birthing anything.

3. Sleep deprivation and stress can be mood killers, and make love story-making feel more like work than play.

4. Once an idea’s born, all kinds of happy, feel-good chemicals release in our brains. Over time, we may have to work harder to keep the excitement going.

5. If getting the story out is delayed, we’re likely to feel huge, as though we’ll POP!

6. For some, the gestation period exceeds that of an elephant. For others, a randy rabbit! Gloria Richard Author

7. Even with painkillers, the birthing process can be excruciating. Should we wait it out while the ideal publishing deal or have a C-section pronto? In either case, once it’s out, our lives will never be the same.

8. Pregnant women tend to focus a disproportionate amount of time and energy worrying about the process of giving birth. They forget that the really hard work begins after the baby is born and continues for the rest of their natural lives. Lesson: Don’t focus so much on the writing of the book that you forget what happens after it’s finished. Audrey Kalman

9. Once “the baby” arrives we protect it like a mother bear and will do everything in our power to give it the best start ever.
At some point our work is done. We have to let it go off into the world on its own… susielindau

10. You feel like you’re never really prepared; yours is more beautiful than anyone else’s and is perfect, except when it’s driving you nuts. Oh, and its younger siblings are always clamoring for attention. Jennette Marie Powell

11. Like any parent, not everyone is gonna love that little baby like Mama does. And that’s the tough part. We Mamas are pretty protective of our babies. As in, “Don’t mess with my baby!” Karen McFarland

12. Sometimes multiples strike our wombs. While two or three can be workable, making like Octo-Mom begets all sorts of problems…

13. Once you birth them, they never go away, LOL, and keep coming back for money. (I know, I know, books are supposed to make you money, but I’m shelling out a lot at the moment on cover artists, copyeditors, and so on, so that’s my frame of reference!). K.B. Owen

14. As book-parents, we’ll have many ups and downs. Support from others is crucial. So is a sense of humor.

15. Raising a book or a baby, there is DOUBT that you are any good at it. Also it’s pretty cool how can you see bits of yourself in them. Coleen Patrick

16. As much as you love your book and try to turn it into the vision you have in your head, sometimes is frustrates you and won’t do what you want it to. Marcy Kennedy

17. Like Kourtney Heintz, your characters could be worse than rebellious teens. She has no control over them.

18. Those cereal killers like to get their Kix in the cereal aisle. lynnkelleyauthor

19. If you leave your writing in the cereal aisle of the supermarket, it goes to the lost and found and you don’t go to jail. Bill Parker

20. Your child (book) will make unexpected-to-you friends. As a result, your horizons will widen, your tolerance will grow, and your world will get bigger. patodearosen

Which item strikes a chord with you? Any more to add? What other writing metaphors/parallels do you use?

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Leave a comment


  1. Worrying about the actual birth when we should be thinking about what happens *after* – so true! Fun topic.:)

  2. What a great list, August! I can relate to every single one of them! 🙂

  3. The list could definitely go on! When you have your first baby August, look back on this list and you can add a lot more…
    I love PatOdearosen’s – your horizon does expand!
    The funny part of this post is that you are on the other side of being published and I haven’t experienced that yet, but I’ve had two kids!
    Thanks for the inclusion and congrats again on your “baby!”

  4. The younger siblings clamoring for your attention–so true!
    Great post August and by the way I had the same fear as you when I was a kid. Except mine was based on the story of Mary and the virgin birth and then seeing bits of a made for TV movie where a teenager got pregnant. After that I thought anyone could be blessed with a child at random. I think I was 8 and I was terrified! 🙂

  5. You said how nice it would be if we just thought about our stories and “poof” – fertilized…um…not if we have to keep the stories at home for 18 years.

    Also, it is said that children make you immortal; stories make you immortal; I think I would rather just not die.


    • Ha ha. True, Scott! Books hopefully launch from our homes much faster.

      Excellent point on immortality. I wonder if that’s a common motivation for book and people parents.

      • Woody Allen stated “I don’t want to become immortal through my works. I want to become immortal by not dying.” So, my guess would be that a lot of people do think of this.

  6. When that story/child is really close, you go into a nesting phase and subconsciously clear out everything around you so that you have room. That nesting is exhausting for me because my ideas are messy and leave all sorts of random other thoughts around the house.

  7. Those are all good ones! I’d like to add that sometimes they are so darned cute and agreeable you just can put them down. That ultimately results in lost sleep, but the end result is usually worth the extra handling time.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  8. LOL! Did I say that? I’ve got to watch what I say around here. Good thing I’m not sick of raising kids. Love all the metaphors. Thanks, that was pretty clever August! 🙂

  9. Some great insight here! I particularly related to Jennette’s: “You feel like you’re never really prepared; yours is more beautiful than anyone else’s and is perfect, except when it’s driving you nuts. Oh, and its younger siblings are always clamoring for attention.” So very true.

  10. Today? I connected with #12; “Sometimes multiples strike our wombs…”

    My muse child has ADHD, and I choose not to quell it with meds. Each of the three multiples demand and deserve attention and nurturing.

    From the Contemporary eldest, to that spunky, adventurous, curious, and sensually obsessed young lady, to the inner-child middle-grade in need of craft and direction.

    My imaginary world is a wonderful place. People understand me here. 😉

  11. #8 SO TRUE. I remember thinking I was going to win parenthood when labor came and went without being so bad. Then I realized not sleeping and not showering were part of the deal and things got real.

  12. What a fun and true list. And you know, the younger sibling may be begging for attention, but once you shift to that youngster the eldest gets jealous and bugs you to listen to them more. It’s never ending. Your stuck in a tug-a-war.

  13. Catherine Johnson

     /  February 8, 2013

    Cool list! :0)

  14. Kourtney Heintz

     /  February 9, 2013

    Awesome list–I really loved #8, #12, & #20. Thanks for including mine too August! 🙂

  15. Raani York

     /  February 10, 2013

    It seems to me I kind of missed something… I’m either pregnant forever or I’m just too old for “kids” of any kind…

  16. Great analogies. The younger sibs are definitely clamoring for attention in my head. Can’t get them on paper fast enough sometimes. Then once they have my full attention, they get coy and play hide and seek. 🙂

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