I am hopeless romantic at heart–a sucker for a great kiss in a movie or a book, hopelessly sentimental about stories where new love is found alongside other adventures.
But I’m also becoming ever more aware of how easy it is to take an oversimplified, overdramatized, and romanticized view of love and trying to measure your reality against it. The end result? A deep dissatisfaction with what you have, and a longing for something that seems more “like the movies,” and thus better.
There’s a power in ordinary love, and I am determined to find a way to depict, to celebrate, and to develop that theme in my fiction.
Yesterday, after a six-month process, I finished the first, extremely rough draft of my new novel: new heroine, new conflicts to resolve, and a new love story to go with it–a story more mature than others I’ve written before, because it was conceived by a heart and mind that has experienced more. And yet I still have been walking a tight-rope between getting emotionally involved enough to make it work, and recognizing that it is fiction.
Because my life doesn’t match the drama I write. The reality is, I have a wonderful life–rich, happy, infused with petty irritations that are no different and no less ephemeral than that of every other person in the world. And because I am already so blessed, my life doesn’t have that urgent tug toward resolution. Everybody loves a happy ending, because it’s neat and tidy.
But Happily Ever After is not a moment, it’s a lifetime, and the truths you discover in the process of getting to HEA have to be unpacked over the course of years–decades, if you’re lucky.
I learned some things about my marriage in the process of writing this rough draft. In the longing of a character for the trust and touch that I take for granted, I realized we sometimes forget to act like lovers at all. We take each other for granted. And it’s beautiful that we can, that our relationship is so fundamentally solid that way–but I realized I wanted more “lover.” I wanted that sense of longing and desire to come forward, to enrich the “best friend” and “partner” aspects of our marriage that tend to take front and center because, yanno, they kind of have to with four kids.
(Practicing natural family planning, incidentally, gives us a built in chance to do that–if we choose to take advantage of it. Which we are better at some times than others.)
But I also had to be careful. There were times when I had to take some space from the manuscript, because the more I got to know my characters, the more writing all that longing and drama into their lives made real life seem flat and dissatisfying. When I write fiction I have to guard against the tendency to get lost in a world that doesn’t really exist, and forget to notice the one that does. Living in the moment is not one of my strong suits, anyway, and it’s something I want to work on.
At the end of the drafting process (and the beginning of what I know will be a far longer editing process), I am so very grateful for my happily-ever-after-in-action–for the ordinary-ness of it, for the luxury of taking it for granted, and especially for the reminder not to do so.