If someone asked you for your advice on making a relationship work, what would you say?
That’s what happened this weekend when I attended the wedding of one of my cousins. Seated for the wedding breakfast, my dining companions and I began the customary exploration of the various goodies on the table. Little organza bags with wedding favours – check. Bottles of bubbles – check. Party bags for the little people – check. Disposable camera – what, no disposable camera? Sigh of relief.
And then we found them: postcard sized pieces of paper inviting us to offer our pearls of wisdom for a happy marriage.
Now, it’s nigh on impossible for anyone in a relationship to attend a wedding without reflecting on their own credentials as a couple. Add a bit of alcohol and then ask people to write down their thoughts? Can. Of. Worms.
I’d repeat some of the comments that were made but none of my family would speak to me again. Let’s just say, the first offering was “Keep your expectations low,” and things didn’t improve from there. Thankfully for the bride and groom, most of them weren’t committed to paper. Husband and I failed dismally to come up with anything at all which, compared to the nuggets from our fellow diners, probably qualifies us for Couple of the Year.
What has any of this got to do with writing, I hear you ask? I’m getting there, I promise.
Presumably the long-suffering types around the table had once sat at a different wedding breakfast wreathed in smiles, full of optimism, believing they could face whatever life threw at them because they had each other.
Well, time had passed and real life had happened. Work, kids and money, irritations and let-downs. Scar tissue. They knew they still loved each other, but sometimes they were just too tired or stressed or fed up to feel it.
But they were still together. Whatever the problems, they still cared enough for each other not to have thrown in the towel.
When I was writing my first draft, my novel was close to me every day. I could feel the breath of its characters against my skin. For almost two years, we were in our own private honeymoon world.
Already, I feel that slipping away. My draft has been shared. My characters have spoken to other people. We’re no longer exclusive. To be honest, things just aren’t the same.
And I have to take my share of the blame. I’ve been looking around myself. I’m spending a lot of time here, on this blog, instead of working on the second draft. There’s a short story idea I keep making eye contact with across the room. I’ve met up for drinks with an outline for another novel.
I know my book and I have more troubles ahead. I know there’ll be rejection and disappointment when I reach the point of submitting it to agents and publishers. I expect I’ll find myself questioning what on earth I was doing thinking I could write something other people might want to read.
But when it comes down to it, I still love it. I do. And if you can’t stick with the thing you love and try to make it work, what hope is there?
Maybe that’s what I should have written on that postcard.