As an author of romance, I should be an expert on love. Yet it remains mysterious, elusive, something that slips away just as I think I've figured it out.
I've pondering the nature of love is, what it means, how it can be captured in fiction, how it can enrich real life. And I've realized something.
Love is like writing.
You can't force it. Your parents may introduce you to the perfect spouse, but if the spark isn't there, no amount of wishing is going to make love happen. In a similar vein, you can make yourself sit in your chair and put your fingers on the keys, but regardless of goals or deadlines, it's not always possible to create something worth reading. I go through the motions anyway, hoping for the best, but I know the difference between inspiration and stubbornness, and I suspect that my readers do, too.
It's not rational. Love comes from someplace beyond or beneath the conscious mind. Maybe it's literally chemistry, neurotransmitters or endogenous opiates or pheromones, as some studies have suggested. Maybe it's a connection of spirit, an indication of intertwined karma or the fallout from past lives. It's not something that can be analyzed, though. Love is not a decision (although commitment may be). In the same way, I can come up with a dozen “reasons” why I write, but none of them get the to core compulsion. I write because I've always written – because it's what comes naturally, the way I express myself, the way I order my thoughts and understand my world. It's a part of me, that I at least believe arises from the soul – though maybe someone right now is discovering the enzymes that turn someone into a great author!
It's different for different people. Some people can separate love and sex. I really can't. If I don't feel some special connection to my partner, having sex is going to be boring or even aversive. Not everyone feels that way. The “zipless fuck” works perfectly well for some.
At the same time, there are people who can love deeply without ever having any kind of sexual component to their relationship. That would be pretty rough for me. I've had plenty of unrequited loves, but always accompanied by at least a fantasy of carnal interaction.
In the same vein, every writer approaches the activity differently. I sit down with a setting, a premise and some sketchy characters and write from the beginning of a story to the end. One of my crit partners is blessed (or cursed) with vivid scenes that he captures in words; then he strings them out on his “clothesline”, trying to to fit them together. I've compared notes with some of my other colleagues and I'll can tell you: everyone's method is somewhat different.
Rejection hurts. When you love but the feeling is not returned, it cuts to the bone. It feels like a repudiation of who you are as a person. Rejection of your writing can feel almost as bad, especially at first. However, in love and in writing, you can't allow bitterness, fear or disappointment stop you from plunging back in. Here's where making a decision is relevant. You can't force love or writing; you can't go looking for it. But you can decide to remain open, to be willing to love – or write – again, even when you're suffering the pain of rejection.
There's always more. Love is not some kind of finite, measurable quantity. You can't run out of it. If you give love to one individual, that doesn't necessarily decrease the amount you have available for someone else . You can love multiple people, at different stages of your life, or even concurrently. There may be solid arguments for monogamy, but the notion that the amount of love we can give or receive is limited to one person doesn't seem reasonable to me.
I think that writing is the same way. Every one of us has had disappointments: the horrible cover, the book full of typos, the publisher that folds, the publisher that won't release your rights no matter how hard you beg. When I'm tempted to get depressed by this sort of occurrence, I remind myself: there's always another story. I've been publishing for nearly a fifteen years now, and I recently figured out that I've had more than seventy stories included in various anthologies. I never dreamed, when I wrote my first novel, that I had so many tales inside.
Yes, I think love is like writing. Or maybe it's the other way around. When I'm deep in the throes of inspiration, it feels like being in love. I think love and writing come from the same place, the passionate, creative center within us all.