Today I wanted to offer you a behind the scenes look at why I wrote the forthcoming book Birth Your Story: Why Writing About Your Birth Matters, and what the process of writing this book was like for me.
Why I wrote this book
First, I wrote this book for many reasons, but my biggest motivator was personal.
After I birthed my daughter Maia in 2013, I was moved to write my birth story. I couldn’t not write it.
As a professional writer, English professor and birth advocate, writing was an obvious choice for me. But really, it was about the work of my soul.
I’ve always used writing to process, express, and find meaning in my experiences. Writing was essential nourishment to me after birth.
I’ve also seen the power of birth story writing in so many of my friends, family, book story contributors, and the women and men I’ve been fortunate to work with in my workshops and private coaching.
I was also inspired to write this book to support women and men, and particularly mothers and fathers, in telling the truth about their lives, expressing the experiences that matter, and knowing unshakably the value of their voices.
So that is a small glimpse into why I wrote this book.
So what did the writing process look like?
In my book, I talk about how valuable the writing process is and how its really even more important than the finished product. I also work with clients who wonder what it is like to write a book. So often we see the finished products of people’s love-labor, but we don’t know what it took to get there.
I’m a big fan of process so I wanted to share with you my own.
I started writing this book on my laptop in Maia’s early months, usually during nap times. I taught a workshop about Writing Your Birth story when Maia was about 6 months old, and I thought— Maybe I will just round out my workshop handouts into a small ebook or something. I really had no idea this book project would take on the life it did.
I laugh because this book has had so many unexpected delights. The first draft of the book was just getting some of my thoughts on the page. I didn’t really worry about the product, and I was awed to see how many ideas I had about this topic.
Every time I thought I’d met the fullness and depth of this book, the bottom would fall out and a whole new level would be revealed.
Writing is a Process of Discovery
I think that is an important thing to remember about writing. That its a process of discovery. We can plan before we write, and I think that is helpful, but ultimately we discover what we have to say along the way— and in some cases it discovers us.
Getting Lost in the Best of Ways
I was telling a writing client the other day that writing a book is more like getting lost in the woods than navigating a city’s subway system. You can’t just follow a simple well-marked map—at least not in my experience. With writing, its like wandering down a path, taking in the beauty, and not really knowing what's ahead. Sometimes you feel like you are totally lost, but then one of those amazing little white diamonds is painted on the tree ahead and you sigh, knowing you are right where you need to be.
It took me about two years to finish the first draft of the book. Not because it was all that hard but because I had a daughter to care for, some serious health problems, and some major writing demons to slay. My inner critic was so harsh about this project in the early days. It would tell me all sorts of stories about how I didn’t have what it takes to write this book, how my other book projects had failed in the past, how I wasn’t qualified enough. I heard it all. And sometimes this voice would win and I’d put down the book for a long time.
Somehow, by magic and perseverance, I stuck with this book and it stuck with me.
The first draft looks nothing like the final copy does.
My first draft had a whole chapter about the power of birth, really just my own musings on how important birth is and how much impact it has on many facets of our lives. But it got cut in the first edit because it wasn’t about writing your story.
I also cut this amazing section about how birth is a phoenix process any how we must honor birth as the death of our old selves and an invitation to become more of who we really are.
I also had a long history of fathers at birth.
I didn’t have any of the content on the anatomy of birth stories in it yet, because none of this had fully formed in my mind yet.
All the birth stories I’d been collecting were relegated to the back of the book and I didn’t have a sense of how they would someday perfectly compliment what I was writing.
So all of this is to say that books change considerably over time. And sometimes you have to be willing to let go of some beloved bits of writing for the sake of the whole. This is also to say: trust the process. Its a winding curving sometimes confusing path, but it leads to the most beautiful vista you’ve ever seen.
If you want to learn more about the book, please visit me at jaimefleres.com or on facebook at Jaimefleresauthor.
I’d love to hear how your writing process looks and the tools you’ve learned along the way. Thanks so much for reading!