New ideas are the sexy sirens of the writing world. At first blush, they’re so fresh and new and uncomplicated. They catch your glance while you’re hard at work, drawing your focus away from what you should be working on. And hey, who wouldn’t want to fantasize about going with the flow, just dropping it all and seeing where this shiny new thing may take you?
The allure of mystery…the thrill of the unexpected…that feeling of going rogue…. The projects piled on your desk seem nagging and frumpy by comparison. …Especially your main manuscript, the one you pledged to love and honor until THE END.
That spark of excitement you felt when first clutching that golden oldie to your chest has long ago faded, replaced by responsibility and complications that naturally develop when you live with something long term.
And hey, commitment is hard. We get it. It’s been weeks, maybe even months, since your original MS bared itself to you fully, allowing you to explore its potential with pure joy and abandonment. Instead, you’re faced on a nightly basis with an unpolished, unapologetically blemished, uncooperative (and let’s be honest, a little word-count-heavy) story that just doesn’t inspire you the way it used to. Maybe it’s your fault. Maybe you ignored the first story for too long, or let yourself forget why you loved it in the first place.
Or, maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s the original story’s fault, with its empty promises of adventure and its lies about being able to withstand the test of time. This was the story that was supposed to make you rich and famous, and live happily ever after, you scoff under your breath. Alas, you’re still working the same, soul-sucking day job, killing yourself to make ends meet. As it stands, it’s all you can do to drag yourself into the writing chair at the end of the day. I mean come on, you’re only human. Maybe your story isn’t doing enough to keep your attention. Otherwise, your mind wouldn’t have strayed in the first place. Right?
Really, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It doesn’t matter how many excuses there are. And it definitely doesn’t matter how sexy that other story is. No matter how irresistible it might seem at first glance. Because here’s the thing: cheaters never prosper. At least, not for long. While plot adultery might sound like a good idea now, eventually you will always end up in the same place. Then you’ll start the “falling out of love” process all over again, with a new story, with entirely new problems.
In writing, much like marriage, the answer to most issues is honest and solution-based communication. Plot counseling, if you will. Ask yourself the following questions, and be as open as possible about how you really feel:
If you can’t make it work, no matter what you try, maybe it is time to move on. Hopefully, at the very least you’ll apply the lessons you’ve learned about what does and does not work for next time. Your expectations will be a little more realistic, a little more suited to your goals, maybe.
Promise me this, kids: don’t throw it out without really working at it first. To a certain extent, you have to love the one you’re with. Leave those literary home wreckers alone, at least for now. Otherwise, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that all those sexy new chapters you’ve been chasing haven’t brought you any closer to the happy ending you’re looking for.
One of the questions I get asked most often, by those who read my blog, is:
“Veronica, why in the H do you hate Hemingway so much?”
The answer to this question is as complex as my love of awkwardness. I hate him because I respect him. Also, because I feel like he probably never tipped a waitress a day in his life. And because, had I been born a few dozen years earlier (and most importantly, male) I very well could have been him.
There’s a saying I’ve been a big fan of for as long as I can remember. Something along the lines of, “We hate most in others the things we recognize and fear in ourselves.” That’s why bullies always target creative types, in other words, those able to more freely and articulately express emotion in a way which bullies have been brought up to believe makes them weak. It’s why the Kardashians are always reaming each other for their ever-escalating and blatant attention-seeking tactics.
IMO, it’s why Hemingway hated the establishment, which in his mind was made up entirely of liars, fakes, and pretty-boy pretenders like Oscar Wilde. On some level, I think he recognized that one day, hipsters in coffee shops would read his novels while sipping $7 soy lattes and wearing non-prescription glasses that cost $40 at Urban Outfitters. I think he knew that deep down, his work was commercial as f***, in its own way. And he couldn’t stand the idea of being remembered forever, but never totally understood as a human being.
Maybe that’s why I hate him in turn. Maybe I’m afraid of getting more and more bitter with age, or becoming so thoroughly fed up with the ridiculous unfairness of the world that I just throw up my hands and move to Cuba, or some shack in the woods. (With cable, central air, and super fast Wifi, naturally.) Or maybe it’s much more Freudian, and I really do wish I was born a man so it would be 100x easier for me to make a dent in this world with my angst-filled words.
Call it narcissism if you want. (It’d be just one more thing we had in common.) After all, Hemingway and I have both been trained as journalists. We’ve both traveled the world and lived in the Caribbean for a time. We share a penchant for elevated, yet slightly angry fiction. And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until the FBI opens a file on me (if they haven’t already.) Like him, I aspire to a Nobel prize, but I’d rather get one for inventing time travel.
At the end of his life, like many great writers, Hemingway became obsessed with the idea that he was responsible for changing the world. In my mind, that pressure was what destroyed him. It saddens me to think that if he’d just learned to let things go, he might have lived a happier life. (Health problems aside, because those he couldn’t help.) If I’m being honest, I’d say both of those issues rank on my top ten list of ultimate fears, as a writer: 1) taking myself and my work too seriously and 2) running out of energy/health/time before I accomplish the things I want to accomplish.
The point of all this is, I think the old saying is absolutely right. We idolize some people because they’re not at all like us, and hate others because they are. Maybe that’s why the world is such a ridiculous, screwed up place.
I feel like Hemingway probably had a lot more in him to say about that.
Writer. Agent. Lover of wine and smelly cheeses. Solver of problems. Drinker of coffee. Champion of real life HEAs.