By Amy MacKinnon
These are rats' hearts. Stunning, aren't they? Four complex chambers; an intricate array of capillaries, arteries; layer upon layer of tissue and -- life. What's truly fascinating about all of this is how a heart is created in the first place.
There is the initial structure upon which cells grow; every healthy heart must adhere to this "scaffold" or there will be fatal consequences. As cells multiple, they take shape, layers of tissue build, veins are threaded throughout, the chambers that propel blood -- life-- into and out of the heart expand.
This is timely because researcher Doris Taylor, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Repair at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and her colleagues published a paper in the journal Nature Medicine sharing their success in growing a heart. Here's the link to the NPR story, the same place I found the image. Amazing.
In the feature, Dr. Harald Ott describes the many trials and errors of finding his way to successfully growing a heart on an existing structure. He tried many different chemicals; he had failure after magnificent failure. One time, he even dissolved the heart completely. It happens. He tried again. Then something they never dared hope, only dreamed of, occurred. Ott used a common detergent that turned the heart transparent, then -- an epiphany! -- he infused cells from another heart and something began to grow. It fleshed out, become a healthy red, then with the assistance of an outside influence, it started to beat. The heart was alive.
Perhaps you're beginning to wonder what this has to do with writing, but I think you already know.
There is a narrative structure to any book. Build on that using varying sized threads, flesh it out, imbue life into your characters and then rip it away from them with conflict. As you're building your book, know you'll fail stupendously along the way and then try again. And again. Dare to dream. Find an agent, an editor, a publisher who will assist you with bringing your book to readers. Give it life.
It can't be harder than building a heart, but it will take all of yours to do it.