12 August 2011 9 Comments

Mother and baby writing lesson

My wife is in labor. Though by the time you read this, she’ll probably have delivered a baby girl. In days gone by, fathers hung around in the waiting room sharing cigars with new fathers. I’m glad that’s no longer a tradition – if I wanted to suck on something long and dark, I surely wouldn’t be becoming a father, if you get what I mean.

But here I am, waiting. Our birth coach is giving my wife reflexology in the bedroom, so I’m taking advantage to pen my little blog missive for the week. Which is all about doing…very little.

It’s my new technique. Up until the book I’m currently plotting, I’ve been a fairly compulsive worker. I’m from Northern Europe; born Protestant; first in the family to attend university and cocktail parties. That sort of thing. This worked pretty well for me, up to a point.

However, since I completed the manuscript of my novel about Caravaggio in late April, I’ve been experimenting with a work method I would describe as “decisive indolence.” I’m still on the plotting stage of my next book. Almost everything about it has changed over those months. It was a historical novel set in London, 1914. Now it’s…not. The characters, the plot, everything’s different.

With my old technique, I’d have had a draft completed by now. But it might’ve been the wrong book. It’d be the book I abandoned already at the plotting stage.

So how have I perfected this decisive indolence? First, I work a little bit most mornings – but not every morning. But I allow myself time for other creative projects – music and painting – which keep my mind alert for the brief moments of creative concentration when ideas about the new novel come to me.

Second, no more car or bike to and from the gym. I’m walking home from the gym several times a week. It’s not the only time I walk somewhere, but it’s the only time when I don’t really need to get anywhere in particular and where my mind has been relaxed already by an hour of exercise.

As I listen to my wife’s contractions, I realize that labor is very much like the writing of a book. So many people these days are scheduling caesarians, and writers are rather doing the same thing – forcing their creative acts. I don’t advocate waiting around doing nothing, but I do think writers need to find a more natural formula from conception to delivery.

And with that, the reflexology is over, and I have to go back to stroking my wife’s back…

9 Responses to “Mother and baby writing lesson”

  1. Kim 12 August 2011 at 5:14 am #

    Mazaltov to both of you! I look forward to seeing you all soon and I like what you wrote about allowing for some creative cooking time!

  2. Linda 12 August 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Mabrook to you all!! Hope mom and baby girl are doing well. You have written this beautifully, as usual!! and I find that the comparison between bringing a new life and bringing thoughts out into this world quite valid. The mystery lies in creation…and you seem to have found the answer to that in the well-written words you have shared with us. Wishing you and your little family abundance of good health,joy and happiness.

  3. Matt Beynon Rees 12 August 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Thanks, ladies! Kim, you’ll have to sample some of the creative cooking very soon. Linda: thanks for your appreciation. I should add that, around Jerusalem, two kids is indeed a “little family” — but it feels suddenly rather large to me.

  4. Ellis Shuman 15 August 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Mazal Tov to you and your growing family! Writing a book is indeed very much like labor. It builds up in you for a long gestation and you are worried, and excited, about how it will all turn out. And then when your book is finished, you’ve created new life, which will have to succeed on its own merits. Even as that creation begins to take its first steps in the world, you can begin planning the next one!

  5. Matt Beynon Rees 16 August 2011 at 5:01 am #

    …Nice try, Ellis. Who’re you — my mother? …I’m planning the next BOOK! If there’s another kid, it definitely won’t be planned!

  6. Ellis Shuman 16 August 2011 at 7:26 am #

    I compared the labor and the birth between the two, but you are quite right that the planning and procreation stages would be quite different!

  7. Matt Beynon Rees 18 August 2011 at 6:01 am #

    …but just as much fun~!

  8. William Pitt 24 August 2011 at 7:56 am #

    I would have thought you were on dangerous ground with womankind when you start comparing anything to the excruciating barbarity of labor. Far safer to say that writing is like taking a dump. Your masterpiece must brew inside you until it is completely ready. Rushing the delivery will lead to less than satisfying results with the inevitable crimping leaving you with bits and pieces left behind that you later wish you had included. Sure, you can produce a sequel but the contents would have sat better in your earlier work. Tiktok bishbash to you and your family.

  9. Matt Beynon Rees 25 August 2011 at 4:00 am #

    Thanks, WP. Though I would never invite the comparison of even the most well-digested feces with a work of art. I’d never get any money from the National Endowments of the Arts (not that I do) once Fox News heard about that…


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