Your novel doesn’t love you anymore.
There was a time, once, when you were inseparable. Back then you’d stay up late, long past midnight, talking about everything and nothing, dreaming big dreams, telling each other “you’re brilliant” until the words started to sound funny.
You spoke often of traveling together. We’ll take a cross-country tour of bookstores. Local bookstores with cute cafés. You couldn’t wait to sip coffee and talk with readers. Your novel couldn’t wait to make new friends.
Every morning, long before the sun, you’d rise and sit across from each other, pillow creases wrinkling your forehead, adverbs wrinkling your novel’s pages. You’re beautiful, you’d say. No, you are, your novel would reply. You didn’t merely endure each other’s imperfections, you embraced them.
There was nothing more important than your time together. The laundry pile grew in direct proportion to your love for one another. Your spouse’s frustration grew, too. I’m sorry honey, you said. I’m on a roll here and I really need to finish this chapter. Maybe tomorrow night? But tomorrow night came and once again you excused yourself from skin on skin to spend time instead with ink on paper.
You were in love. Everyone could see it by the way you talked on and on about each other. You, at the dinner table while eating take-out for the seventh straight night. Your novel, while being passed around at your weekly crit group meeting.
But then something happened.
Your novel stopped wanting to do things with you. It was subtle at first. A missed appointment with a perfectly believable excuse.
I’m tired. Maybe tomorrow.
But then morning came and your novel sat across from you and scowled. You look like death warmed over, it said. Your tired clichés need a shower, you snapped back.
Of course you apologized to each other later. After coffee. You’re both so polite. But slowly, or was it rapidly? you became estranged.
Maybe it’s best we take a break, your novel finally said after days of frustrating silence.
You nodded and said yeah, reluctantly. Oh look there, your novel said, an adverb. You both smiled a half-smile, then said goodbye.
That was months ago. You’re still behind on laundry, but the piles aren’t as high and your spouse doesn’t complain. It’s a fair trade for skin on skin.
Still, you miss your novel. You think about it in the shower. You think about it while making coffee. You stare longingly at the local bookstore every time you pass, imagining the two of you on that road trip.
It’s not that you’ve stopped writing. You’ve started three other novels. They’re not bad. One of them is actually quite good. But they’re nothing like the novel you once knew. You’re pretty sure it was “the one.”
A lot of time has passed since you last saw each other. You know some things you didn’t know then. You’re smarter. You’re more understanding. You’re more confident. You’re a better writer.
God, you loved that novel.
Maybe you were wrong about it. Maybe your novel still loves you. Oh, if only you could fix things. If only you could work through your disagreements. If only you could rediscover that magic again.
Perhaps you can.
Just do me a favor before you attempt to rekindle your romance: Talk to your spouse.
You’re probably going to need some help with the laundry.