I had an idea for a novel.
This is not new, as I have been having ideas for novels since I was ten years old, some of them immortalized in a thirty-line poem I wrote when I was fifteen – a line for every heroine I had imagined.
Of those thirty, I only ever finished one – the first one. I don’t remember its being particularly spectacular – mostly a plagiarization of Lord of the Rings and some other unremarkable fantasy novels I read in the fifth grade and don’t remember the name of (Google tells me they were called the Enchanted Forest Chronicles), with a healthy dose of characters patterned on my real-life peers. In fact, it might have qualified as inept, inventive crossover fanfiction. So many stolen names.
Since the thirty-line poem, the flood of ideas has dropped off massively – I remember an idea for a murder mystery during my junior year of high school, a fitful night spent reading e. e. cummings poetry which inspired a bad idea about a runner whose girlfriend had died just before I went to college, and, the summer after my freshman year, a good amount of good work done on an idea loosely based on some things happening in my own life, mainly the change of relationships forged in early life when those people go to college. (Over a year later, I kind of hate that one.) Inspiration hasn’t really been mine for a long time.
Until recently, when I managed to distill my stewing thoughts into six or seven doable ideas, most of them not terribly fleshed out, but all of them carefully considered as to how well I could do them, the kind of research they would entail, and the things I would be trying to say with each.
I will admit to a certain hidden vanity in my writerly ambitions: if the possible outcomes are taken from a cast of my favorite authors, I have long said I have no desire to be the next John Green, with unbelievable sales, intense following and serious fame. I have, however, said that I would love to be Madeleine L’Engle, who was never the YA rockstar that John Green is, and yet changed my life tremendously. That’s what I was after: I wanted to be to someone as L’Engle has been to me. However, this, in my head, has become I have to write deep pretentious novels about love and human existence, and therefore I never come up with anything engaging because I’m afraid to pander to the masses. Perhaps, continuing in the favorite authors vein, I am more Louisa May Alcott than I realize: the balance between artistic integrity and doing anything at all, between good enough to sell and good enough to put your name on.
However, one of my ideas in particular may be a go, as it is a. possible to make engaging, b. not something which requires loads of research, and c. something I myself have wondered about for a very long time.
Naturally, knowing me, it is an exploration of love. But more specific. I have struggled for years with the difference between love in theory and love in practice. I mean, yes, we say, ‘love with open hands,’ ‘trust love one more time and always one more time,’ but what does that mean when you fight with someone, or need them and they aren’t answering, or fucked up miserably and can’t repair it beyond asking them to forgive you, and don’t know what to do next?
I don’t know.
So then, my idea will explore this: How far do you go, how long do you wait, for the people you love?
And, as an extension, how do you decide when you love a person? How do you decide when you don’t?
For instance, the specific dynamic I want to explore in the book is somewhat of a Rory Williams/Amy Pond thing: she can’t stop dashing about and having adventures, and he, despite being madly in love with her, is growing more and more tired of waiting. Does being tired of waiting for someone mean you don’t love them? Does it mean you briefly stop? Does it touch the issue of love at all? Is love the part when you say you’ll be there, and the part when you are still sitting there when they show up three hours late? Does it also include the agonizing three hours in between where you questioned everything and wanted to give the person a hearty piece of your mind, or does that not fall under love?
I don’t know that either.
My worry is that devoting so much time to exploring this will have a less-than-desirable effect on my relationships, given how deeply I will be analyzing all the love going on.
And then I start to worry that I will be asking too much if I say, “Look, I’m a writer, I might get grumpy with you through no fault of your own but simply because I’m thinking and writing about some really upheaval-ish things.” The pretentious misunderstood artist who thinks she can get away with anything because it’s part of her art. I don’t want to be that person.
How much do your actions give weight to the fact that you love someone (or say you do)? How do you quantify love?
Does it mean I don’t love my mom if I told her I fucking hate you when I was fifteen?
Does it mean my dad doesn’t love me if he once made fun of me until I cried?
Do all the doubts I have about whether or not I’ll ever be able to have a good relationship with my sister mean I don’t love her?
Does it mean I don’t love my friends if I can’t talk when they need me to? (Conversely, does it mean my friends don’t love me if they can’t talk when I need to? Or is that just time zones giving me hell again?)
I don’t think so.
It’s hard on both sides. When my friends and boyfriend are busy or asleep when I want to talk to them, I don’t feel very loved, and it’s easy to want to throw a tantrum and say no no no get back here and love me the way I want to be loved. But when they want to talk and I am busy or asleep, I’m thinking, “Look, I love you but it’s impossible to do what you’re asking right now.”
I think my characters are going to feel both of those at once. God, this novel is going to rip me apart. Emotions. Emotions emotions. Fuckery buckets.
But does thinking, “It’s impossible to do what you’re asking right now” mean I don’t love them, or they don’t love me? How consistently do you have to think that before they can argue that you don’t love them? What about the difference between impossible-because-you-don’t-want-to and impossible-because-you-don’t-know-how and/or impossible-because-you-just-can’t-learn-how-to-do-that? Where is the line here?
To complicate things further, does it mean, for instance, that I don’t love my boyfriend if, when I can’t talk to him, I replace him with Derek or Hannah? On some level this isn’t fair. But on another it’s a distraction, it’ll teach me patience and tide me over until I can do what I want. Otherwise I’d probably end up sending him forty-five bleating messages of a great big sludge of need and biting my nails until he decides I’m crazy and runs away for good.
Obviously spamming my boyfriend with my neediness is not healthy. But is my way of coping with it healthy? I HAVE NO IDEA. Technically speaking, replacing something decidedly unhealthy with something still-kinda-unhealthy-but-less-so would logically increase the net health of the situation, but does that actually make it healthy? Or are all bad ideas equally bad?
I’m confusing myself.
Time to go home.