Writing Bells, by Kiki ClarkIt occurred to me today that the relationship professional writers have to their art is much like a marriage...
In the beginning, all you want is to spend time with your notebook and computer. You’ve found something you adore, and for the first time, it seems to be a perfect fit for your personality. It doesn’t expect you to wear nice clothes or talk to people. It doesn’t fence you in with idiotic rules or tell you what to do. You’ve found freedom and belonging all at once. You scribble during your lunch hour, scramble out of the shower to write down perfect gems of dialogue, and wake up at night thinking about your story.
You started writing for the pure pleasure, but at some point, you decide that it can be more to you than a passing fancy. You should settle down with this and make a living. Your writing notebook is a mix of plotting points and five-year plans. How long can it take to get published? A year? Two? Ooh! You should write a series and have at least five little books!
Memberships to writing groups, contest fees, travel and hotel expenses for must-go conferences, gifts to loyal readers of your blog… There’s a bit of expense, but it’s all so much fun! Also, you didn’t know your new love would bring you into contact with so many wonderful people. It’s like having a new family!
New desk, new laptop, inspiring artwork, and shelves, shelves, shelves. All the books you used to feel guilty about buying can now be counted as research. Old friends are complaining that they don’t see you as much, but you can’t seem to keep your hands off the computer! Maybe two can’t live as cheaply as one, but it’s an investment in your future -- together.
The First Fight
Hmmm. Turns out your new love isn’t as unconditional as you thought. What’s all this about goal, motivation and conflict? And why can’t you write a romance with a male protagonist who learns to love the heroine after hitting bottom as an alcoholic and wife beater? Why should you have to be the one who makes all the changes?
The Honeymoon Is Over
So many pages a day, so many revisions to make, and what’s with the nag, nag, nag about showing, not telling? Still, the rewards are unquestioningly worth the compromises you have to make, and if you’re not spending as much time together, well…a little balance in your life can only be healthy.
This isn’t how you thought it would be at all. You put so much work into this relationship, only to be rejected over and over. It’s been two years, and your publishing career hasn’t exactly been fruitful. There are no contracts, no little published books nestled on your shelf, not even an agent. Maybe it’s time to get counseling. Can anyone recommend a good book doctor?
Five years. Five freakin’ years of hard work and emotional ups and downs, and what do you have to show for it? A couple of nice letters, which don't exactly add up to romance. You’ve made requested change after change, but at this point, just looking at your former love makes you feel tense and closed up. Forget about performing! If they'd just tell you what they want, you’d do it! But they don’t communicate, they don’t offer anything, they won’t accept anything, and you’re ready to give up entirely.
A Second Chance
Finally, some acknowledgement! And even better than a major award is the pitter-patter of your agent’s little feet as she toddles from publisher to publisher. How you love being able to say “my agent.” Even her name is so sweet, you can say it over and over again, until your less fortunate friends wonder if maybe you could talk about something else.
It’s uncertain, but what isn’t? All you can do is focus on the wonderful things instead of the annoying little problems, and remember why you fell in love in the first place. Figure out the things you enjoy doing together, the things you’re good at, and hang out with friends who support your relationship as opposed to pointing out the flaws. But you also have to protect your own happiness. And if the day comes when you realize there’s more conflict than happy endings, find another love.