By Sage Cohen
There’s a good reason that all fairy tales end immediately after the hero and heroine arrive at Happily Ever After. The truth is, Happily Ever After is not exactly a cakewalk. When one has spent a lifetime imagining how it might be to achieve a certain goal, the shock can be to discover that life on the other side isn’t a whole lot different. In fact, once fantasy transforms to reality, the hard work really begins. And so it was with my fledgling book and relationship.
On the heels of nearly a decade of living alone as head-of-household, I had to quickly figure out how to share my turf in the “I” to “we” identity transition. For example, I was quite attached to a sleeping rhythm that included my dog Hamachi, a large German Shepherd mix, spooning with me in bed, her head comfortably cushioned beside mine on the “his” pillow. The cats had a seven-year tradition of filling in the gaps–between my legs and arms, and around my head.
Jon liked animals, but was slightly allergic; and sleeping with a large dog between us and several kitty sandbags fixing us in place wasn’t his idea of a good time. To make matters even worse, Diablo became passionate about batting Jon’s earplugs around the bedroom as we slept, and this kept Jon awake long into the night. Eventually, I agreed to something I never thought I possibly could endure: the cats were banished from the bedroom and Hamachi was demoted to the foot of the bed.
Other similar adventures around creating work and play spaces for Jon, incorporating his décor and schwag, and reinventing systems in the kitchen, garage and front hallway gave us many opportunities to learn to collaborate, and cultivate a home and way of life that reflected our shared values and expectations.
As “Project We” was humming right along, “Project Author” was revving up its engines right alongside it. I found myself in a parallel identity stretch–one in which I was stepping into the role of “expert” in a way that would ultimately be very visible to many people–as an author. I was glad I had negotiated a nine-month writing schedule. This gave me a buffer of freak-out time at the front end of the project, which I employed with gusto.
After signing my book contract on the dotted line, I spent the first month or two trying to emotionally and logistically prove to myself that I could actually do such a thing as write a book. I created a master schedule that detailed how I would squeeze writing into the evening and weekend margins around my full-time job. I assigned myself a number of chapters-per-week (there were 36 weeks and 80 chapters), and built in a process by which I would reward myself and celebrate meeting each milestone.
I decided to put my big-picture blinders on for the first draft phase and instead think of each chapter as an individual essay. This helped me manage my panic around how to get my arms around something as large and unprecedented as a nonfiction book. With a structure in place, I finally settled into the exhausting, euphoric rhythm of writing.
A few weeks into tentatively inhabiting my author identity, the little plastic wand in the bathroom boasted a big, blue plus sign. A book wasn’t all that would be coming through me this year; we were going to have a baby.
Next month, facts and myths about the joys of being a pregnant author.
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University and teaches the e-mail class Poetry for the People. In September 2008, her son Theo Luchs-Cohen initiated Sage into the life of the writer mama.