midweek musing - a mixed metaphor of motherhood and midwifery

Having watched series 1 – 3 of Call the Midwife again recently, and with my sister becoming a mother this week, such images have provoked reflection on the writing process again.

The metaphor for this week's musing is going to be fraught with imperfections, but I have been wondering if being a writer is like being both mother and midwife at once?

As a mother, there is the moment of conception – the spark of creativity, inspiration – the idea (baby) begins.

Then the midwife takes over, with knowledge and wisdom and experience, keeping an eye on the baby's (idea's) growth and development.
The mother, too, feeds, tends, loves the baby – struggles with the adjustments within, makes space for it in her attention distracted from other things, preparing for the arrival.

Then there is the waiting. For a long time, there is not much more to do than wait, as the baby / idea grows, in its own time (more fluid for an idea than for a baby, I grant you), until it is ready to enter the world.

Here is where I become mother and midwife most profoundly at once. I felt it the other day, the waiting reaching the point of frustration, the pain of pushing the idea out because it is time, baby, get out here into the light. The midwifery of coaxing, timing, making sure the mother is well, the baby is not harmed in the dangerous but oh-so-natural process of birth.

As I sat one morning last week, knowing the presentation outline must be written, pacing literally around my flat and figuratively through Facebook and emails, I felt like the mothers on Call the Midwife, my sister this week. Almost ready, not quite, and then all of a sudden in quite a rush, the words fell out onto the page, perfectly formed. Not quite so much blood, but plenty of sweat and almost some tears in one of the more painful birthings of a piece of writing for some time.

I don't know how others write – perhaps it is more a grafting process akin to woodwork, or the sketching of blueprints to be transformed from page to three dimensional structure with redrafting and layers and stages like building. For me writing is very much a spark, some early work to settle the idea, then waiting while mysteriously inside my subconscious grows the idea into a piece of work. For me, writing is a process of tending the embryo, letting it incubate, waiting and waiting (hours, days, weeks, months, even years) before a rush of activity to scribble the words in a mess out of which comes some sort of miracle I can't quite believe I had a hand in creating – midwifery and mothering and what a process! And, actually, I do enjoy it, even though the waiting can be difficult, the labour demanding.

What metaphors might you creatively mix in order to view your creative process from a new perspective for deeper understanding?


Heather said…
What an interesting metaphor! It's given me some insight into the creative process for you. I guess for everyone it might be slightly different, but a combination of patience and discipline seem quite necessary. If you have to wait to incubate an idea at times, I guess that means that early starts on creative work are important. You can't have a whole story development in one night! Thanks for your thoughts, Sarah.

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