Last week I had a discussion with a close friend. She has three children, and each was born via caesarean. During the third operation, she was told that her uterus was dangerously thin. A thin uterus is dangerous because of the risk of rupture in subsequent pregnancies, and medical professionals usually advise not to have any more children. It had been discussed with her prior to the birth, and she had opted, that should it be the case, she would have her tubes tied.
She would’ve loved another baby, but loves the kids she has.
Last week her period was late. Only a woman who has had an unexpectedly late period can describe the horror that you feel at that. There is the uncertainty of what is going on with your own body, but then there is the “what am I going to do?” debate that takes up every minute of your day.
The chances of her being pregnant are astronomical – but there is that chance.
My friend’s husband told her that he would want her to have an abortion, but she was torn. She so much wanted another baby. At that stage she was still thinking with her emotions over a cute cuddly baby, rather than all the other ramifications.
Now, to make my stance clear, I’m pro-choice. I’m not pro-abortion or anti-abortion, I’m pro-CHOICE. A woman should have the right to choose for herself what is best. I would prefer that no abortion be performed, and I think as a society we should more widely accept adoption, but I’m a realist who understands that sometimes bad things need to happen to stop catastrophic events.
My friend sat there, shaking at the thought of harming a baby that she didn’t even know if she was pregnant with. I told her that she would need to go through the pros and cons with a doctor before deciding on a course of action, but if it was me, I would follow medical advice. If it was risking her own life to have a baby, she was risking making her husband a widower and leaving him with three small children to raise without a mother.
My friend asked me if I would come with her if she decided to have an abortion. I told her of course. She knows I don’t judge. And I believe in taking care of the caregiver before the one in need.
Now THAT is a challenging statement.
It was something I learned from when my father was battling terminal illness. My mother was the caregiver, and we needed to look after her, because she was looking after Dad. If Mum went down, then they both would.
How many of you reading this blog post are parents? How many times have you gone without so that your kids could have something? I know that I always give myself the driest looking piece of meat so that the kids get the better bit.
I’m not advocating stopping that activity, but more on an over-reaching scale.
In our household, the family revolves around my direction. As I tell the kids, I’m the boss! **wink** I hold the reins, keeping the horses on the straight and narrow, pulling the stagecoach along its track. If my husband falls ill, we limp onward, maybe a little slower, and at times I have to jump off and push, but we still journey forward. However, if I fall ill, the horses bolt and run away, smashing the coach against the rocks, and wandering off course. We rely on two things – firstly that I’m not ill for too long, and secondly that I can pull us back on course when I’m well again.
But what if it was a protracted illness? What if it was something more than a cold? What if it was something long lasting and debilitating like a mental illness?
As the mother, I have multiple roles in my family. I’m the one who keeps up with the kids’ school schedule, their friends, the extended family, the pets, the daily housekeeping, the bills, the groceries, the budget, etc. I keep the dentist appointments and decide whether we need more red meat in our diet. I’m the one who makes sure the kids go to the library and have done their homework. I remember when to worm the cats, if it’s the day to put out the bins, if it’s time to do a load of washing, and if we can afford to have takeaway tonight.
I’m the caregiver. I take care of everyone else. But who takes care of me? I must watch out for myself and make decisions on how much is too much. Because, if I don’t take care of me and I go under, then we all falter.
The point of this blog, is that authors need to take the same care. Writing is a very isolated job. Most of us are self-starters. We don’t have agents to egg us on to write the next best seller, accountants to keep track of our money, publicists to market our stuff, and a manager to watch over it all. We’re pretty much a one-horse show. I’m not talking about those who self-publish versus those who traditionally publish. I’m talking about the oomph to write a novel, finish it, tidy it up, and do something with it – all without (guaranteed) reward.
These days we have social media to put us in touch with our readers and other authors, but it’s still a very lonely business. We rely on ourselves a lot. And a by-product of this, is that we have to rely on ourselves to check if we’re okay.
I’ve been in the authoring business a VERY SHORT time. I’ve only been writing not even three years, and published only 18 months. I’ve met a lot of authors on social media in that time. And I’ve seen a lot of authors go down.
Some drown in the avalanche of responsibilities and disappear until the thaw. Others brave the storm of bad reviews and get swept away. We’ve recently seen the mudslinging and resultant mudslide of the Laura Harner situation. Her excuse for plagiarism seemed to be “I wanted more and didn’t think anyone would notice.” One of our favourite authors has declared she’s hanging up her paddles. And yet another one has disappeared from contact.
There are so many pitfalls, and the author needs to watch for them. My take on the world of writing is this: slow and steady wins. An author that brings out two novels a year, rides at their own pace, and doesn’t get overwhelmed, will still be bringing out two novels a year in three years time. An author who makes a huge splash with four novels, rides the huge wave, gets the glory, will probably hit with a bang and slide under the waves. (Don’t concentrate on the numbers I’m using in this analogy, because each person writes at their own pace. The point is, the author who takes care of themselves survives. The author that creates the tsunami washes out.)
Take care of the caregiver before the one in need.
It’s like when you’re flying on a plane, they tell you that if there’s an emergency and the oxygen masks come down, put your own mask on before helping others.
When you’re an author, you are the caregiver. You are the provider of stories. The readers are the ones in need of stories. If you don’t take care of yourself, then you don’t write, and the reader “starves” and you’ve killed two people.
If you are an author, and you’re reading my blog, my advice is to take two minutes to check yourself right now. Are you okay? Are you stressed? Have you taken on too much? Are you pushing yourself too much? Do you need to slow down?
If you are a reader, and you’re reading my blog, my advice is to wait. Have patience. We all love our favourite author, but if your choice was to have two more of their novels right now and never have another after that, or to have twenty more novels over the next ten years, what would you prefer?
I see a lot of Facebook posts out there to “show your favourite author your love.” Readers respond by telling their love, tagging their author and saying thanks. I adore that concept (and wow to everyone who tags me). But another way to show your love is compliment without pressure.
Consider these two sentences:
“I loved your new book. When’s the next one coming out?”
“I loved your new book. I can’t wait for the next one.”
Translated, they say: “Great job, but give me more” and “Great job, and when you release the next, I promise to buy.”
When a reader says the first to me, I adore their enthusiasm. Believe me – I cannot help but be grateful. (Thank you thank you). But it puts the pressure on. Granted, most authors have already started writing, if not finished the next one, but if it’s not ready to go, we feel we’ve let the reader down. And as an author, that’s the last thing we want to do. We want to make you happy. We want to make you laugh. Sometimes we want to make you ugly-cry, but hopefully not at the end of the book. But we live to make the readers happy. Because we care. We’re the caregivers.
But let us take care of them. Because without the author, there will be no stories. And how sad would the world be then. (Insert ugly-cry here).
So next time you see an author struggling, how about a bit of encouragement for them? "Hi, Author! No hurry on the next novel. I'm happy to buy it when it's ready. I won't forget you, never fear. I love you, Author. I want you to be happy and write me books. I'd rather read a great novel than a rushed one. From your adoring reader, Me."
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