Thursday, April 7, 2016

Roots and Wings

Today, my midwife and I were talking about the transition into motherhood, and she said something that so utterly captivated me, I started crying.

A mother's job is to give roots and wings.

Photo from
I don't know about the rest of you mothers out there, but I, for one, struggle with that. I tend to be really good at the roots part, and not so much the wings. Some of my momma friends are the opposite. But really, is anyone good at both things?

The same holds true for our stories-- our book babies.

We spend weeks, months, years in a stage of preparation. We don't know what to expect when the "pregnancy" stage of the book is over, so we take things one day and week at a time and do the best we can.

But one day, the water breaks. :)

Maybe an agent requested your book, or an editor is reviewing your proposal. Maybe your beautiful story is finally PUBLISHED, and you think you're about to live your wildest dream.

And maybe you're surprised when it doesn't feel quite like you expected.

Maybe you're realizing your story needs roots and wings.

A writer's job is to ground our stories in our very hearts, but when they are done growing, to set them free. We must pour every bit of ourselves into the characters, and the setting, and the prose and the theme. We must be terribly, painfully honest in our writing. If a promise is broken or a tree is ugly, we must say so. We must hurt when our characters hurt and rejoice when they find healing. We must be the very fodder from which the roots of our stories grow.

But we can't stop there.

We must also give them wings. We must set our books free into the world of criticism, doubt, and skeptics. We must separate ourselves from this beautiful thing we grew, and at some level, admit it's taken on its own identity. When disappointment comes--and doesn't it always?-- we must be say to ourselves, "This critique simply belongs to the story. This critique does not belong to the heart-blood I poured into the writing."

And then, when we've finally mastered the art of growing a book and setting it free, we must sit back down and start all over again, in a never-ending, beautiful process of artistry.

Let's hear from you! Do you struggle with putting your exposed heart into your writing? Or maybe you bleed onto the page, but you take criticism a bit too personally? How have you managed to negotiate this in your own writing?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Angie Dicken said...

Ashley, this is so beautiful and so very real. I tend to bleed all over the page...usually in my blogging more than fiction. I think I have a hard time letting my story be its own. It does hurt when if gets criticized and I let it knock my confidence. Same with my kids too! They have their own personhood yet I find myself wanting to control every little thing and worry too much about what others think. Great great food for thought!!

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, girl! I know how you feel-- I feel that way about my book babies too. Love you!