Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Staying Faithful To Your First Love

In case you're wondering, I haven't suddenly decided to try converting my blog into a relationship advice column. Trust me, with the cobwebs covering my little black book, I'm probably the last person on the planet to offer any insight in that department.

No, the "first love" I'm referring to is not a person, though she's (or he's) every bit as dear to a writer's heart, especially for authors who've devoted years of their lives nurturing the same family through an ongoing series. I'm talking about that "next great book in the series," the one that reunites writer and reader with a cast so beloved that it almost physically hurts when those familiar, dreaded words at the end of every story rear their ugly head. No matter how much their situation changes, revisiting their lives feels like a homecoming. There's a warmth and comfort in exploring their world again. Before long, you feel yourself falling back into that soothing rhythm as the words flow from your fingertips, and you remember everything that you've always loved about these people. They are no longer fictional characters from your past works, but honest folk with their own minds and manners, willed into existence just shy of flesh made real.

However, the muse can be a devilish taskmistress. One never knows where or how inspiration will strike. When it happens in the middle of weaving a story about your beloved characters, your children, it can leave an author floundering. Such is my quandary now.

On the one hand, I have my latest adventure of my tried and true crew of misfits. I know their hearts and minds. I'm in love with the direction the story is heading and can't wait to see how things turn out. Plugging away at their tale is not a chore. There is no wall in sight. I have a beginning and a decent idea of the ending, with some middle bits that thrill and delight me to the bone. What is yet unwritten is not a haze on the horizon, but clear skies begging to be explored. It's safe and comforting in their world, and I don't want to leave.

Oh, but for that muse... sneaky temptress that she is! She tickles and teases with notions of a story so amazing, so fabulous, that one cannot help but listen. A tale of excitement and adventure, with a new batch of characters as quirky as my old ones, perhaps even more so. It's a dazzling golden carrot that she dangles before my eyes, and before I even realize what I'm doing, I'm rushing off to my trusty word processor to get all of these stirring ideas down before she yanks them away. 

In my enthusiasm over this shiny new wonder, thoughts of cheating don't even enter my head. I tell myself that a writer's relationship to his or her book is not meant to be monogamous. We are creatures of urges and fickle fancies. Why else would we strive to bare our souls on the page, sacrificing everything short of our own health towards the fulfillment of a tale about others?

Yet there's a dark spot on my heart as I finish my first chapter of this dazzling new epic. Is there such a thing as writer's guilt?

I'm trying to stay the course with my old friends, but I'm not sure if I can escape the allure of my new ones. The only solution in sight is to write both books concurrently. As much as I'd like to devote myself, heart and mind, to my first love, I'm only human. Worse, even. I'm a writer. I can't help but wonder what treasures await over that new horizon... and, Lord, does that fresh grass ever gleam like an emerald right now!

*Sigh.* It's a good thing that love triangles are my bread and butter.