It’s weird how sometimes writing is like romance.
You start thinking, Maybe I’m ready to put myself out there again, and so you start looking around. You think, This person seems nice, but I’m not sure I see it going anywhere. Or you think, I see exactly where that’s going and no thank you. Sometimes it’s, Everything about this seems perfect and yet somehow I feel no chemistry here.
But then it happens. You find someone and you just click. They’re exciting, even if you can’t put into words what exactly you like about them. You just kind of feel it. It’s the way you want to think about them all the time, the way you find them cropping up in your brain when you don’t expect it. It’s the way they seem so perfect you can’t believe you’ve gotten this lucky.
You remind yourself that they have faults. Of course they do–doesn’t everyone? You hope they’re more of the leaves dirty socks on the floor variety than the has serious anger issues kind. You try to think critically, try to examine what you know about them carefully, searching for hints of future trouble. But despite your best efforts, your brain keeps getting all moony over their perfect smile or that super smart thing they said.
You also know, intellectually anyway, that this might turn out to be nothing. It might end in dramatic fashion with a computer hurled across the room (or a file angrily deleted). Or it might simply fizzle out, one of you ghosting the other and the other not particularly noticing. Maybe you’ll suddenly meet someone else, someone better (Jennifer Egan wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, while avoiding working on another novel). But in the beginning it’s hard to believe that this isn’t the best thing ever.
Writing something new after actually completing your last project is a little like what I imagine dating after getting out of a long, mostly happy relationship is like. It makes everything feel a bit more fraught. You wonder if you have it in you to love like that again. You compare everything to that last relationship, not because you miss that other person (although, maybe a little?), but because you’re looking for good signs and bad. Was it easier at this stage in that last relationship? Was it harder? What does that mean? By the end of that last relationship, for better or worse, you knew each other so well that there wasn’t too much awkwardness. The rough edges had all be smoothed down. So awkwardness now feels wrong, and you have to keep reminding yourself that you have to take time and do the work. But still you worry, What if I only had that one, pretty good love affair in me? What if I’ll never have that again? Is it worth trying again without the guarantee that this is going to be something, anything?
And yet, despite your misgivings, you can’t stop yourself from coming back, because that early stage is exciting and fun and full of promise. This could be the one. Everything could be different after this. So what’s another hour of lying here awake thinking about all that is great about this person instead of falling asleep?