When a fellow writer recently told me she’d abandoned her latest manuscript after working on it for eight months, I felt awful for her. How terrible to spend so much time and mental energy on something that didn’t pan out, and how brave to finally say enough was enough. Sometimes you know it’s for the best, she told me, and once the decision was made, it was a relief to let go.
And that’s when I realized writing books is a lot like dating. We’re always searching for the next great idea, the next great love. We need to feel passionate about our next project, because it requires a years-long commitment. But true love, as we all know, isn’t something you can easily summon.
I recently finished my next book (“finished” being a relative term, since I’ve still got months of edits and proofreading to go). With my previous books, there had been lots of stops and starts as I reworked the plot and characters. Writing this latest one felt more like tumbling into a whirlwind courtship. The idea came to me almost fully formed, and the characters felt real from the moment I dreamed them up. I can’t say every minute of writing as a joy–the process came with all the usual frustrations as I pieced the parts together–but I never once doubted that this was the book I was meant to write. I knew it was The One. And now I’m coming down from that endorphin high, looking around for my next prospect, and I’m starting to feel like the Bachelorette at a particularly disheartening rose ceremony.
(O.M.G, I really don’t know who I’ll choose….)
I have three different story idea vying for my affection, all of them with great potential, but I don’t have that rush of certainty that compels me to work on one rather than another. I’m not in love.
Is it that I’m expecting too much? After all, good relationships take work, just like novels. One of the ideas I’m considering might be come more compelling the longer I think it over, like a nice-but-boring boy next door who reveals hidden depths once you get to know him. Or the ideas could turn out to be the literary equivalent of bad dates. I’ve been trying them out (i.e. writing a few chapters) but ultimately may have to face the fact that we’re not meant to be. Maybe something completely new and unexpected will sweep me off my feet.
I can dream, right?