Birthing a Baby—and a Book
by Sarah Hamaker
Writing and publishing a book is often compared to giving birth. In my case, my first book and my fourth baby had the same birthday.
Like many books, mine started with a germ of an idea about helping women decide on a work-from-home business or at-home employment. I wrote up a proposal and three sample chapters, sending it off with high hopes. A year of rejections from numerous publishers and agents (albeit with several nice notes expressing regret that my book didn’t fit their current line-up) followed my initial foray into publishing. Then I stumbled upon a small press in California that expressed interest in my book.
Nearly twelve months of back and forth emails resulted in a signed contract and a six-month deadline to complete the manuscript. I was elated yet panicked because I had a three-month-old baby, two preschoolers at home—and no extra money for childcare. With my husband’s support, I plowed ahead, knowing it would take determination to research and write a 55,000-word book practically from scratch.
Adding to the challenge, I had to locate and interview women who worked from home to liven up the drier facts and instructional aspect. Thankfully, I already knew several women who had at-home employment. Posting on a few relevant listservs pushed my total number of interviews to fifty.
Researching the book was like a scavenger hunt to uncover the most up-to-date data, and the actual writing was the biggest hurdle of all—not so much the stringing-together-of-sentences part, but the carving-out-time-to-sit-in-front-of-the-computer part. I became adept at snatching every spare moment I had, writing furiously in fifteen- to thirty-minute stretches, which was often the longest period of time I could find during the day. I sandwiched in phone interviews as my children napped. I edited pages sitting on a park bench while my youngsters played on the jungle gym.
Finally, I sent the book off to the publisher for the long wait until publication. Meanwhile, I found out we were expecting baby number four.
The publication date kept getting pushed back until it was smack up against my due date. On June 23, our fourth baby arrived, and when my husband went home from the hospital, he found a box of books on our doorstep—Hired@Home had arrived on the same day as our son.
I felt like the proud parent of two newborns, not just one. Having both events happen at the same time brought me more joy than one can imagine.
Along the journey to publication, I learned that it takes more than writing skills to make an author. It takes time management because there are never enough hours in the day in which to write. It takes perseverance because there will be numerous setbacks. It takes optimism that you can write, even when current circumstances make it seem impossible.
Today when people ask me as a mother of four children between the ages of three and nine how I find time to write, I usually say that I can’t not write, that to me, writing is as necessary as eating and breathing. I can’t fathom never picking up a pen and writing down my thoughts, my ideas and my stories.
Granted, there are times when life intervenes and my writing has to be put on the back burner for a while. But I’ve found that you can usually squeeze in a few minutes each day, each week or each month to write—even if it turns out to be only five minutes here or fifteen minutes there.
Like the pregnancy of a first child or a fourth, birthing a book involves careful forethought, followed by patience, and the expectation that the outcome will become all the hopes and dreams that went into its conception.
So far on my writing path, I’ve been “mother” to one published book, and the experience has made me look forward to future publishing “pregnancies.” An “only child” is a blessing in itself, but this parent wants a growing family.
This story originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers.