I’ll admit it, I have problems committing. When I first met my current “amor” I swore I had never seen an idea so sexy, so ripe for playing with character and plot, so exactly where I was in that moment as a writer. It was, I was certain: The One. I yearned to roll around on the floor with it, promise it anything, give it all my time, and let it do things to me I’d never let another project do … hard, fast and without protection. Finally clear about what I wanted, I confronted my ex, a far too-complicated coming-of-age story involving a Deaf-Blind protagonist. “But we were just getting going!” My ex begged as I dragged it weeping to the “Unfinished Projects” folder. “Sorry, darling. It’s not you. It’s me. I’m a different writer now than I was last Spring. Maybe there’s another writer that can handle you. I mean, you could have been great, really. Stunning and brilliant. But you just aren’t my thing anymore. I think it’s best if we didn’t even see each other for a while. Bye!”
Next thing I knew I was at the Starbucks, sitting alone with The One. My new dream project. What a beauty! Vibrant main character, setting dripping with potential metaphors, a structure as sleek and classic as a navy blue blazer with gold buttons. And so we began our dance. Fred and Ginger. Tap, tap, tap on the keyboard. Fireworks. I took it to the bedroom. Things were incredible. I mean we “did it” pretty much every day for hours on end. I’d only come up for air when I wanted a snack or had to use the bathroom. We were just so much into each other. How did I ever write before finding The One?
Some writers can’t let go of a piece even when it’s not working. They doggedly slave away for years on end, hoping it will all add up to something. Generally the result is the same: first madness then oblivion. Sure there are your Prousts and your Pounds, who are involved for decades with the same One, and they end up being classics. But that’s rare, and besides, is it really worth spending 52 years with just one idea? Ugh! Dull, dull, dull! I just know I’d have to go behind the barn and cheat with a short story or a hot little essay here and there. I am an artist after all. I have needs.
I also think it’s important to know when something is and isn’t working. And once I found the One, the flaws in my ex just couldn’t be ignored. I think, perhaps, neither of us were ready.
It’s three months since I fell in love and already it has become impossible not to notice the rather revolting flaws in my new obsession. Some parts are just too thin, and other parts are downright overweight and sloppy. When I asked my friend C.’s opinion about my new flame he offered some strained compliments, but I knew he was avoiding pointing out a general lack of hygiene. Now I feel utterly embarrassed by its appearance. Under the glaring light of sixteen chapters I can see that the thing has neither good bones nor teeth! Frankly, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. And can we talk boring? My god is it boring! And if I leave it alone for one crummy weekend just to go hiking with my buddies, it’s always calling me and whining about what I’m not doing right, and how I never pay enough attention anymore.
I can’t stomach the guilt trips it lays on me.
To make matters worse I came across one of my exes the other day, a truly inspiring idea about a autistic savant I stupidly broke off with two years ago. Alternating chapters of first person and third. A voice so original and alive it felt like it was writing itself! I was ready to call it up and announce my impending separation from my current project. Ask my former flame to go steady again. But then I discovered that particular ex had already been taken to completion by a far more tenacious writer. I was crushed and embittered. They looked perfect together. There was no point of me even bothering now. How could I have been such an idiot to let that one go?!
The memory of what “could have been” only highlighted the worthlessness of this new relationship. Under reconsideration the one-who-got-away had been smooth, easy and often wickedly funny. My current project is labored, clunky and just too damn much work! Should something I truly love feel like I’m dragging a boulder up Everest? Suddenly it hits me: I’ve lost faith. I mean, do I really want that kind of a relationship with THIS particular project? Maybe it really is just meant to be a one-night-stand, a quickie more fitting for the Huffington Post or an extra-long Facebook rant. Novel? Full-length play? Even an Amazon short? “Sorry, darling,” I mutter, as I give it a brotherly knock on the chin. “You just don’t have it.”
So, like I always do, I suggest a temporary separation. “Just to clear my head,” I lie. I feel nauseated. I start to wonder, having started trysts like this a hundred times, what if I do it differently this time? What if I ignore my gut and just … stay? Isn’t something this important always painful sometimes? Aren’t suffering and road-blocks part of it? If I just keep sleeping around with every cute idea that gives me the hey-ho will I ever be able to really experience what will happen with a serious piece of long-form writing? Or maybe … maybe I’m just not cut out for it. Maybe that’s just who I am: the Good Time Charlie of the 600 word essay.
An hour passes as I sit, staring at my coffee, tapping the letter “Y” over and over again so the screen looks like a flock of angry seagulls. As I consider attempting just one more sentence, I envision my author’s photo happily on the back of a not-too-long first novel, covered with jacket blurbs by some of my favorites: “The perfect coupling.” “Witty” “Charming” “A tour de force.” “We didn’t think he could do it, but he did!” But then the fear of commitment bubbles from my gut like a busted septic tank. “This will not work! This cannot work! It’s just too damn hard!” The smile spills from my face like a toppled display of canned peaches. I feel so defeated. I remember all my other ex’s, the contemporary Kung Fu epic, the Disco musical, the Dystopian cook book, all the lost loves who still call now and then, locked away in that “Unfinished Projects” folder. “Maybe you should hook up with one of them again,” I tell myself. “Maybe they’ve changed … or maybe you have! Maybe this last fling has finally taught you what you needed to learn!” But then, just as I am about to click open on an old file, I gaze across the singles bar of my brain and I see … it. We catch each other’s eye: a new idea! It is so HOT. So sexy. The ONE. This time will be different. This time I’ll stay. I promise.