September 11, 2013

It's Okay to Ask for Drugs

So, you've probably heard someone say that writing a book is like giving birth. I'm about to give you a really concrete example of how that's painfully true. As in, PAINFULLY true.

For those of you who have been in labor before, you'll likely recall the moments when your brain screamed I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! For those of you who haven't been in labor, trust me--you reach a point where the pain is so great that you can't breathe, and you need to vomit, and you might pass out, and you would give absolutely anything to make it stop. Usually, that moment comes right before you find relief, whether that be in the form of birth or drugs. The feeling is similar to other moments in life involving great physical pain and change.

I went into labor intending not to have drugs. The first time, that didn't work out. The second time, I somehow, miraculously, made it through natural childbrith (side note: there is nothing natural about childbirth. It's foreign, and terrifying, and only happens for a split second in your life, so how can it feel commonplace? It may be designed by nature, but it's not natural).

While there are many reasons as to why the two births differed, there was one detail that made a big difference for me the second time around. Prior to our son's birth, my husband and I had made a deal: I could ask for drugs all I wanted. That's right, I begged and pleaded for an epidural with every gasp. I cried. I offered my firstborn in trade. But no matter what I said or did, it was up to my husband to know when I really needed them.

As in, I begged for drugs, and no one listened to me. The midwife was down with this plan. The nurses, to be honest, were a little freaked out. But I tell you what, there was nothing like the freedom of ASKING. It was okay to ask for the drugs. It was okay to "give up." It was okay to let everything fall away.

Years later, I find myself facing a very similar moment as I face revisions on my second MG novel. I'm in pain. The moment sucks. I don't know how to get through it. I hate everything. I don't know if I can do it. And every single cell in my body is screaming to GIVE UP. To ask for the drugs. So I'm doing it. And my wonderful, awesome husband is happy to listen to me tell him all of the reasons I'm giving up. All of the silly rationalizations. He's smiling, nodding, agreeing--and not giving me the drugs.

We grow up believing that it is wrong to give up, that it's some kind of mortal sin. But honestly, we never know what's on the other side of giving up. With writing, letting go could lead to a subconscious breakthrough. One day, you give up. You go back to your life, your kids, keeping up with the laundry and cooking for a change--and a week later, you wake up with a spark in your chest. Just as with labor, the darkest moments are right before the light. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

So today, I'm giving you permission to give up. To let go. Because you're a writer, and sometimes you have to let the words go before they can find their way back to you.


  1. Melanie!!!!

    I so needed to hear this today. Thanks for helping me to remember that we ALL struggle with the process.

    1. You got it, girl! I also find it helpful to remind myself of how much time has passed. As in, it's only been a couple of weeks since I finished the draft. Or, I've only been writing for less than two years! Or, some people take YEARS to write ONE BOOK. Always a good idea to reality-check yourself. It's so very easy to put unrealistic pressures on ourselves. Taking time doesn't mean taking a day or two off. It can be more than that, and that's okay. :)

  2. Excellent post, Melanie.

    Giving up, giving in, asking for help, receiving comfort, moving forward -- it's all a part of life. When I'm well-centered and taking the long view, I try to see these writing struggles as a mini-lab for learning life skills. When my brain is acting like an ass, I just try to muddle through.

    But, here's where we differ. I try not to think of childbirth as a metaphor for anything. Because childbirth sucks!


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