Recently, my daughter has been sick. A tummy bug had been circulating through the infant world like a game of duck, duck, goose, and I had hoped she might get to be a duck.
No such luck.
She got goosed and, by default, so did I.
Luckily, we didn’t get it very badly, but just enough that any plans went out the window…including Mommy’s writing time. Day dreams of witty character dialogue and villainous whodunits were replaced with a fussy baby needing cuddling and many games of Guess Which Food She Might Actually Eat. But this wasn’t my first sick baby rodeo. No big deal.
Until a week later.
SPOILER ALERT: No, she didn’t die or anything, but something close to death for me (if you ask my husband) did happen–I wasn’t able to get any sleep. My daughter’s stomach had started cramping painfully, causing her to cry out through the nights–ALL NIGHT LONG.
Now, that doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, especially if you’ve never had a baby and didn’t do the three-month-newborn-shuffle of diaper, bottle, burp, rock, hour of sleep and then do it all over again. But due to my daughter’s reflux and sensitive stomach, I didn’t get a regular amount of sleep until she was eleven months old, and I think my body is still trying to catch-up. So a few days without sleep really starts to wear on me. My body begins to feel wore out, my brain wrung out…and, honestly, when I’m dead dog tired, I wish I could walk out (of the situation and take a nap).
But I never do. And I never will.
Because I love my daughter and I am committed to her.
She is worth all of the pain and discomfort of getting up every hour, even when my body says it can’t take anymore.
And, I realized in those sleepless hours, so is my W.I.P.
My W.I.P. is a part of me, just like my daughter, and I need to love and care for it like the little story baby it is. I need to be willing to get up early and/or stay up late with it. I need to feed it with words, cuddle it in thoughts and, yes, change its dirty diapers. Even when I’m frustrated, bored, or full of doubt, I need to keep getting up and lovingly invest in it. It takes time and effort to raise a novel.
I did get my daughter to the doctor. They prescribed her some drops to help her stomach. And we both got sleep. The tough, painful nights passed.
And so will the tough, painful parts of your book, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to get up with it when it cries. Books are like babies. You’ll find that it’s the hard times that bring you the closest.
Fatigue, self-doubt, confusion: these are not indications that our project should be abandoned. We must keep exploring. The exhaustion is temporary.
-Alan Watt, The 90-Day Novel
Happy writing…and sleeping,