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manuscript

The God Complex

December 6th, 2011 by Helen_Lewis-Mcphee | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The God Complex
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My mum’s just finished her book. I don’t mean she’s finished leafing through the latest Dan Brown or Marian Keyes. After months of hard work and hermitic habitude, she has emerged, blinking into the daylight with her brand new manuscript: 80 000 words currently winging their way through cyberspace towards her editor.

And, as if by magic, or miracle, there are all these new people in the world. Claudia, and Aileene, and Lydia, and Jim, and, in his own way, Marius. My mum didn’t just produce my sisters and me, she’s given life to countless characters. And she’s given them lives. With friends, and families, and jobs, and joy, and, often, tragedy.

That’s a pretty scary concept. What does an author do with all this power, all this potential? All these people, all these lives, and there she is, the omnipotent puppet-master, supreme lord of all she’s created. She can breathe life, cure cancer, bring people back from the dead.

But here’s the rub: all of that is just an illusion. There are really no puppets for the master. These characters take the scrap of existence they’ve been given, and they run with it. They make mistakes. They do things they’re not supposed to. They live their lives. And there’s apparently nothing she can do to stop them. All she can do is observe as their stories unfold and their lives unravel.

She cares about them. She worries about them. She cries with their joy, and with their pain. But in the end, she can’t protect them from themselves. All she can do is give them the best start she can, and hope they’ll do her proud with it. Maybe it’s not a God complex. Maybe it’s a Mum complex.

Another author recently said that “Writing a book is just like giving birth.” You live with this embryo of an idea, feeding and nurturing it for months from your very core, until it’s grown big enough and strong enough to survive in the big wide world. She finished by warning of the terrors of publishing: “It’s like handing your baby over to a stranger, who changes its name, puts horrible clothes on it, and leaves it out in the cold to die…”

Helen Lewis-McPhee