Saturday, 22 July 2017

Birthing a Book, by Dan Metcalf

Above all, remember to breathe...

You've carried this strange beast inside of you for far too long. When you first announced it, you were happy to talk and show off about your new found authorship. People were happy for you – you seemed happy too, exuding a kind of care-free 'glow'. People made plans. Big plans.

“We're going to have a party to celebrate its arrival!” they said. You were pleased, but now you are not so sure. You just want a quiet time. No fuss, just a few drinks with friends. If you're not too tired.

But wait. Let's go back to the beginning. The conception of the thing is a hazy memory; you had had too much to drink. It seemed like a good idea. At the time.

And so you did the deed – in a splurge of creativity you made this small 'thing'. Was it a book? You weren't sure. You needed to check with someone.

You told a few people about it, and they were enthusiastic too. Word got around and you went to the big meeting, holding your partner's hand with sweaty palms. You were nervous. You were excited too, but excitement doesn't always come with heart palpitations and perspiration. Then the man behind the desk gives you the news you'd been waiting for. You're going to be expecting...a new book.

The celebrations begin, but you still have the gestation period to go. You stare at your baby, caring for it and gazing at its perfection on the screen. Then you go for regular check-ups with the editor. This is where they drop the heart-shattering message:

“Your book is fine, but...”

But? But what? It's defected in some way? Underdeveloped?

Nothing a few doses of redrafting can't fix, the editor says. Phew. Now you get to spend more time with your baby. Endless nights, tending it and checking it is okay every five minutes.

Endless. Nights.

Slowly, you begin to resent the book. You resent it for the amount of time it takes from you, for the social life it robbed from you. But you love it too. You love its crinkly edges and imperfections, the way it makes you feel; how could you not? It came from you, remember?

In the weeks before it is due to come out, friends will call you.

“Hi! Is it out yet?”

You stare down the phone. Of course it isn't out yet! You're still waking at nights thinking about it, drudging around in the daytime in a half-coma. You would have told someone if it was out yet! You would have told everyone!

Then the day comes. The date that had been emblazoned on your brain for months arrives and your new creation is set free into the world. People congratulate you! Strangers congratulate you! You feel elated, lighter than you have done for months. Your baby, the thing you made from nothing, is now part of the world. You're happy.

You look at it. It's ugly at first; not what you expected. But God, you love it, and you will until your dying day.

Dan Metcalf proudly gave birth to his newest addition, Codebusters, on July 13. It weighs in at 127 grams and is 144 pages long. You can look at it here and here. Dan, being an overly-proud father, has even started posting videos about it on YouTube. Don't worry about the yellow cover; that's a design choice, not jaundice.


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Brilliant post! And congratulations to the Birth Father. I hope your baby will go out into the world and draw many admiring glances and fascinate all with its clever wit and artful words. No one who hasn't birthed a book will quite understand the elation.

Dan Metcalf said...

Ah, thanks Dianne!