Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Lost Loves and Missing Masterpieces

That does it, Myrtle! You and I are through!
Pack your things and go! But leave the Cuisinart.
Photo by karpati
One December, I found out that a couple I had been friends with for years had separated and were in the early days of divorce.

Embarrassingly enough, I'd already sent their Christmas present (I was SO proud of myself when I got the presents in the mail for those I wouldn't see over the holidays, and for actually crossing one thing off my To-Do-Before-Christmas list). I guess they just had one more thing to fight over in deciding who got to keep the gift.

I was stunned. Of course I'm not privy to the inner goings on of other people's marriages (thank God!), but theirs seemed to work for them. They were both well-to-do and well-suited to each other, with strengths that complemented each other's weak areas.

I have watched my spouse lose his health, his career, the bulk of our income, and -- very nearly -- his life in the past few years. But I can honestly say that I am happy. I'm more in love with him now than I was when I married him 20-some years ago. We've spent a greater portion of our lives together rather than apart.

Sometimes dreams take people in differing directions. Still, it's a tragedy when that happens to people who once thought their dreams included each other.
My goal in life is to disprove "Money doesn't buy happiness."
Photo by Virenda Nyberg

It just goes to show you that $$ doesn't buy happiness. I wish that were a lesson the universe would see fit to try to teach me. I wonder how much money it would take to make me UN-happy. I'd love the opportunity to find out. (Would love to say, "Let's see. Current net worth: $3.5 million. The amount that Tom donated to Scientology this year. Hmm... Nope. Still happy. Must... Have... More!")

In a very real sense, writing and a marriage have much in common. For instance:
  • It is impossible to explain why one feels compelled to either write or marry. 
  • Both writing and marriage take enormous amounts of dedication. 
  • Both require constant vigilance to ensure quality and stability. 
  • Both can be overwhelmingly fulfilling.
  • Both can drive one mad. 
  • In writing, as in marriage, there are few things better when it's good... and few things worse when it's bad.

Difficult though it may be for you to believe,
my dreams never included this.
Photo by coopah.
Good writing, like a strong, happy marriage, is hard. Many gifted writers have given up and walked away from their craft. (E.M. Forster, the writer of "Howard's End" and "A Room With a View," reportedly quit writing abruptly. When asked about it, he complained that he'd simply lost control of his characters. They would have to do something specific in order to advance the plot, but instead they developed ideas of their own and refused to take orders from him. Eventually, he couldn't even get them off of a train. So he quit.) Just as many well-suited couples have broken with one another.

I find the whole thing extremely sobering. Just imagine how many masterpieces the world is missing because frustrated writers became disillusioned with the process and turned their backs on their muses. It's as tragic as vowing to love someone for the rest of your life, and then realizing that you can't keep your promise.

All photos from MorgueFile.


Anna said...

Wow, I hadn't thought of writing or marriage in that way before. I'm sad for your friends and hope they can reach a satisfying (what is the right word in this situation?) conclusion.

Ami Hendrickson said...


Unfortunately, my friends' situation never reached an amiable resolution.

I often think of them, however, when I'm tempted to throw in the towel in a WIP. I was once in love with the idea enough to start the project. Am I really ready to give up on it? Or am I committed enough to it to make it work?

Sharon Wachsler said...

I love your writing, but honestly, this blog would be worth it for the pictures alone. They are hilarious.

I have learned that I am much more dedicated to my writing than I can ever be to a romantic relationship, I think. One has some measure of control over one's writing, but you can't change how another person acts, if they fall out of love with you, etc.

Interesting about Forster. I've sometimes had characters go off in ways I didn't anticipate or think I wanted, but I usually find following the character is right for me. They lead me to the plot.

I do think there's something to be said, actually, in both relationships and writing, for facing a struggle and coming out on the other end. It shows you how strong you are (or you and the other person's commitment are).

Ami Hendrickson said...


I confess, I have as much fun finding pics for the blog as I do writing it. Thanks for the kind words!

I believe you are right about perseverance in both writing or relationships showing you what you're made of. (It also shows you how worthwhile or valued the project or relationship is.)

As for my characters developing minds of their own, I'm somewhere in the middle. I have one WIP where a bit player was so compelling that he moved up to a major role. But at this point, I can still get him off a train if I need to!

Keep on keeping on!

Dave said...

I think I would have to differentiate between an inability to keep the promise, and an unwillingness. The first is rare, the second common. With writing, the easy choice is simply to say, "I'm shelving this project because its not working for (insert reason here)." Its just as easy with a marriage. As with any labor of love, it truly becomes love when you have no desire to keep at it, but choose to anyway. That's when the proverbial rubber meets the road, because we're always glad we did keep at it afterward.

I've never made this correlation to writing before, but its an extremely helpful analogy. This increases my commitment to the craft. Thank you for posting.

Ami Hendrickson said...


Thanks for your comments. I agree with you: if you keep on pushing through - in both relationships and WIPs - you are generally thankful that you did so when you can look back w/ 20/20 hindsight. Of course there will always be exceptions, but I still think we humans tend to abandon projects (and people) all too readily sometimes...