Monday, August 22, 2011

My Novel is not my Baby

One well meaning relative spoke to me recently of how my novel was like my baby. Considering I am happily childless, I think this relative somehow conceives my writing, or literary creation as a sort of substitute for a child. In as much as they understand the long term process and efforts involved in producing a novel, I see the comparison as positive. Similarly, there is some truth in the allegory given that as much love and passion feeds into a creation process as into caring for a child. Both also take many years. But these similarities aside, it alarms me that people would compare a work of fiction to a real human being.

My Novel is not my Baby.

I can speak for other writers who actually have children and who know the difference. They have children precisely because a novel is not a substitute for a child. Enough said there.

But it goes further. Your flesh and blood baby ultimately becomes their own person, a person with their own personality, their own thoughts, capable of their own creation, living and breathing their own individualism. Parents do contribute to a child's upbringing but people are unique, driven to meet their own goals and make their dream come true.

So the comparison is skewed because that baby, you see, is me grown up and that novel, is my dream come true. In no way does the baby equal the novel. The novel is the dream.

Genetically speaking and as far as social development goes, a parent has influence over who their child becomes. Some influence. But you do not create your child's personality.
Whereas I create characters from nothingness, I give them thoughts, traits, personality and idiosyncrasies. I make them say what I will. Unless you are some god, you can not control what your child says.

While you have a strong influence on their upbringing and can finance their education, you do not control your child's desire to learn, or their destiny. Whereas as far as both my subconscious and conscious minds are concerned, and except for marketing or publishing concerns, I have complete control over my characters and their destiny.

You may bask in your child's glory as he or she grows. You may for example, feel good from their achievements and from being associated with them. I can not bask in the glory of my novel. My novel does not achieve anything by itself. It is I who achieves it.

You remain a separate entity from your child. You may feel for them and or connect with them on a spiritual, physical and emotional level, just as many people do whether they are related or not, but you are separate entities. Your child is after all, a person.

But I am not separate from my novel. I am its complete creator, my mind has poured into its pages, dreamt up visions, given a destiny to each of its characters. True, it exists now, without me. But it remains fully tied to who I am and what I imagined.

If as an adult your child succeeds in life, then most of the time, people will acknowledge their effort, not yours. They are separate from you. Yet you will feel happy for them. It is a fact that mirror neurons are more likely activated when we identify with a person. And your mirror neurons will be happily stimulated when this child, who resembles you, feels anything positive.

But if my novel is appreciated, people will acknowledge my efforts. There are no mirror neurons here, no sense of empathy. There is only my pride and my ego. Now that does not mean I am incapable of feeling for others, just not with a book.

I felt I needed to say this. My novel is not a substitute for a human being, it is very much what it is. My work.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gothic Escapades

At the age of six, one of the first books I ever read were sexy Gothic comics that my mum hid in a drawer beside the lounge coffee table.

Don't get me wrong, I liked my weekly delivery of the Mickey Mouse magazine with its latest goss on Walt Disney animated features, its princess character stickers and glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent gimmicks (can you tell I grew up in the early 80s?). But as a six year old, I was more titillated by images of lesbian vampires flaunting their moonlit breasts under black silk capes and preying on unsuspecting blonde damsels in laced corsets.

One day, as I slinked past the coffee table and slid a couple of comics back inside their secret drawer, my dad spotted me. He was shocked. Determined to put a stop to this debauchery, he scorned my mum.

"Did you see what Laura just did? Don't you realise she's reading those comics? You'll have to hide them somewhere else next time..."

I shot my mum a nervous look. I really didn't mind getting into trouble. But if she hid these books, all the pleasures of my little six year world would vanish...Did I mention I read those comics deep under my bed sheets, with the aid of a torch? (I tried to use a phosphorescent boomerang for lighting but it just didn't give off enough lux...or photons, as I discovered years later during an engineering course.)

So I watched my mum, terrified of her reaction. Would she get mad? Would she become one of those she-devils I had seen her become during her legendary fits of temper and whose nemesis I sought in my Gothic comics?

It was the strangest thing. My mum did not blink. I think she just shrugged her shoulders, ignored my dad's protests and continued to read.
I owe her that I think.